Translating China's Struggle with IP
Friday, August 15, 2008
With all eyes focused on
China for the Beijing 2008 Olympic
Games, many of the country’s struggles – human rights, pollution, censorship –
have taken center stage. Another issue the country has dealt with – respect for
intellectual property – remains a problem for a nation that is trying to play
catch-up with the rest of the modern world. Recently, China revised its laws to address this issue,
and even implemented educational programs to raise awareness of
intellectual property rights. A U.S. intellectual property attorney,
however, says that's not enough.
It is no accident that the opening ceremonies of the Games
of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing
began at 8 p.m. on August 8, 2008. “8-8-8-8,” which is pronounced “ba-ba-ba-ba”
in Chinese, phonetically resembles the pronunciation of “fa-fa-fa-fa,” meaning
“prosperity, prosperity, prosperity, prosperity” in English. Indeed, China presented
an impressive and spectacular opening ceremony, showing off its rich and
awe-inspiring cultural heritage and its emergence as a prosperous new
establishment on the world stage.
The opening ceremonies displayed multiple facets of Chinese
culture and art. Yet, while ancient
Chinese culture was highlighted, another fundamental aspect of Chinese culture
deserves similar recognition as the world gathers to celebrate the 2008 Summer
Olympic Games: respect for others and nature, and the appreciation of harmony
and moderation. This respect and
appreciation should apply to both tangibles and intangibles, including
intellectual property rights.
As the host of the Olympics, the Chinese government has
worked to re-brand its image when it comes to intellectual property. From the design and sale of the official
,” to official Olympic logos and trademarks, to distribution
and broadcasting rights, the Chinese government appears to be adhering to
multiple areas of intellectual property rights associated with the Games.
However, China’s history of
failure to respect and appreciate intellectual property rights in regards to
piracy and counterfeit goods is magnified as the country puts its nation and
people in the spotlight of the Games. Of course,
the problem of piracy and counterfeit goods is not an isolated phenomenon in China.
Yet, the lack of full appreciation of this issue makes the country a victim of
its own long-neglected problem:
Counterfeit “Fuwa” and knock-off Olympic merchandise was spotted at
well-known tourist destinations, and raids were conducted to seize
and apparel from street vendors.
Combating counterfeit goods and pirated works is difficult,
has revised its laws and regulations to address this issue. Educational programs organized by the State
Intellectual Property Office also are helping to raise awareness of
intellectual property laws with the Chinese people.
However, as a Taiwanese-born
intellectual property lawyer
that has family in China,
I wish to approach the issue from a different angle. Regardless of the laws, there is a fundamental
good in respecting works from others’ intellectual endeavors, and such works
are worth protecting. To some extent,
the concept of intellectual property as an individual right is foreign to the
Chinese culture. I hope to change that through my website,
translation of the term “patent” in Chinese). The site is my attempt to explain the need for respect of intellectual property by
translating important U.S.
court decisions into Chinese.
At a time when trademark applications in China have increased 60 percent and the number
of patents has doubled since 2003, I believe that, if the Chinese truly want to
make progress in the area of IP law, they must first understand why Westerners
respect intellectual property as well as the U.S. laws that protect it.
By translating the opinions of the federal courts from
English to Chinese, I hope to instill the concept of respect and appreciation
of intellectual property rights in the minds of the Chinese and Taiwanese alike. Intellectual properties such as copyrights,
trademarks, patents and trade secrets are the fruits of inventive and creative
works. Just as the Chinese culture
respects and appreciates others, intellectual property rights should be valued
as well – and not just because it is a foreign concept to which China
needs to conform.
Confucius said, “Never impose on others what you would not
choose for yourself.” This principle
should also apply to intellectual property rights because they are fruits of
ingenious endeavors by those who labor to produce innovative advances. I hope, through my translation, that I serve
as a resource for this ongoing effort.
Arthur Yuan is a
native speaker of Chinese and a registered patent attorney at
, a national intellectual property law firm based in St. Louis, Mo. Mr. Yuan’s practice is concentrated in all aspects
of domestic and international patent and trademark law, including patent
prosecution in the computer technologies, patent licensing and patent analysis.