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Peter Mandelson Speaks On IP Protection In China

by Carla Johnson, Investors, London

28 November 2007

In a speech delivered in Beijing at the Trade Fairs Seminar earlier this week, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson urged Chinese authorities to take a much tougher line on the abuse of intellectual property rights in China.

Mr. Mandelson argued that although China has acted to improve the protection of IPR, the persistence of intellectual property rights theft is hurting Chinese industry as well as European companies. Mandelson also noted ongoing problems with counterfeiting, patent protection, film and music piracy and non-payment of royalties.

"I am here today to talk about the ideas and the creative genius that go into the making of things – both here in China and in Europe. And it is an important issue in our trade relationship. For Europe, innovation and invention and creativity are the crucial added value in the things we make and present to the rest of the world. That 'ideas-content' is now more central to Europe’s drive for competitiveness than it has ever been. It is also increasingly important for China, as President Hu made clear in his work report to the seventeenth Party Congress last month," he began.

Mandelson drew the attention of those attending the Seminar to figures (from the European Chambers of Commerce 2007 China Annual Business Survey) which suggested that seven in ten of the European companies doing business in China that were polled had been victims of IPR theft.

Leading Chinese companies are also increasingly concerned about IPR, he went on to add, observing that:

"Behind every innovative European product, whether it’s a fashion shoe, or a solar panel using new environmental technology or a medicine or a semiconductor - there is an idea that requires protection. But every day, in numbers that are getting higher every year - those ideas are being stolen."

"That is the main reason why the EU has recently chosen to spearhead work on a new global pact against counterfeiting – ACTA, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement. My hope is that China will one day be part of the global benchmarking that ACTA will establish, as it moves to protect the increasing innovation that is happening here. This isn’t just a European preoccupation, this is a key Chinese interest," he stated.

Talking more specifically about IPR theft, the EU Trade Commissioner announced that:

"I am firmly convinced that the most effective solution to effective IPR protection is the legal enforcement that mutual cooperation between the EU and China can and should provide. We need a shared sense of the damage that counterfeiting does – not just to European companies but to any company, and any economy, including China’s, that wants to do more than just make T-shirts and cheap plastic toys."

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