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Manufacturers, Exporters, Wholesalers - Global trade starts here.

China Talking Tough on IPR

At a China-US intellectual property rights (IPR) roundtable attended by US Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans on Thursday, Vice-Premier Wu Yi introduced areas where China has made headway in IPR protection over the past year.

"The whole country has been mobilized in the campaign against IPR infringement," she said.

Evans said China had taken some steps to address IPR violations but they are still short of US expectations.

"Process is not progress. Results are progress," said the outgoing secretary.

James Zimmerman, a member of the board of governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said they believe China has taken steps to improve both its civil and criminal enforcement system.

He especially welcomed the move by the country in issuing a new judicial interpretation, which has substantially lowered the bar for imposing criminal penalties on IPR violators. But he urged the government to consider new measures aimed at strengthening administrative enforcement.

The judicial interpretation, announced last month, states that offenders pirating more than 250,000 yuan (US$30,000) worth of copyrighted products can be jailed for up to seven years.

Wu admitted that China's government, businesses and consumers have to make a long-term, concerted effort before IPR protection in the country will change thoroughly.

"I hope the US government and enterprises can understand this, see what China has achieved so far in IPR protection and have faith in the future," she said.

Another big move last year was the formation by the State Council of a group to oversee IPR protection across the country. Wu Yi heads the group. Twelve government entities are involved, including the Ministry of Commerce, the publication administration, the police and customs.

The group launched a year-long campaign in September to crackdown on IPR infringements nationwide. Within two months, authorities prosecuted over 1,000 cases involving 550 million yuan (US$66.5 million) while local business administrations have dealt with more than 9,800 trademark infringement cases, and confiscated or destroyed over 10 million pirated products.

The Ministry of Commerce and the IPR Protection Working Group have also established a regular communication mechanism with foreign IPR holders, according to Wu.

Professor Li Shunde of the IPR Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said IPR protection will be a long-term process in China, where personal income is low and the public's IPR awareness is lacking.

The one big advantage in China's system is that government departments can strike at IPR violators on their own initiative, according to Li.

"The fight against piracy could not have achieved what it has, had the government not been so aggressive," he said.

On Tuesday, local authorities in China destroyed 63.4 million pirated audio-visual discs seized last year in a campaign organized by the Ministry of Culture.

Premier Wen Jiabao, met with Evans Thursday, and thanked him for his efforts in promoting Sino-US trade over the past four years.

(China Daily January 14, 2005)

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