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Monday, October 23, 2006

China fights back over patent rights

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CHINESE companies have begun to defend their patent rights with increasing aggression in US courts, legal experts say. "Within the past year or two, the Chinese have begun standing up for themselves and testing the limits of intellectual property (IP) rights that are asserted against them," said Mark Hogge, a patent attorney at the law firm Greenberg Traurig.

Some Chinese companies are even going on the offensive in the US for the first time, and filing their own patent lawsuits against US competitors.

"Over the past 10 years, patent owners have won in about half of ITC cases against Chinese companies, but in the other half, Chinese companies have either won, forced the patent owner to withdraw the complaint, or obtained an agreed-upon settlement," said Mr Jarvis.

"The Chinese are now at a place where they aren't taking the hit and are going to take a stand," said Mr Hogge. Like Japan, Korea and Taiwan before it, China is becoming more aggressive in protecting its IP as Chinese industry becomes more sophisticated, moving away from copying foreign products and towards innovation.

The growing importance of IP to Chinese firms was demonstrated earlier this month by figures from the World Intellectual Property Organisation showing patent filings in China (half of them by Chinese) had risen sevenfold in the past 10 years. Getting sued for patent infringement in the US is very costly, but it can have benefits, said Mr Chen. Chinese companies are increasingly realising "it may not be a bad thing to be a defendant in a lawsuit because we get free publicity".

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