UK's first intellectual property attaché to begin work in China this week

Out-Law News | 12 Dec 2011 | 5:20 pm | 2 min. read

The UK Government has appointed an intellectual property (IP) expert to provide advice about the enforcement of IP rights to companies looking to do business in China, it has announced.

The UK and China will also hold an annual meeting between all relevant IP authorities to "share information and support businesses", the Government said.

Speaking at an industry conference between the UK and China Baroness Wilcox, Minister for Intellectual Property, announced that the UK's first 'IP attaché', Tom Duke, would be based at the British Embassy in Beijing from 14 December.

Duke, the former head of the IP Centre at the European Chamber of Commerce in South Korea, will work alongside the government's export agency UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) as well as British businesses operating in China.

UK companies are often put off from dealing in China due to fears that their intellectual property will be appropriated, the Government said. However, trade between China and the UK last year was worth an estimated £42 billion.

"Appointing our first IP Attaché in Beijing will provide a physical presence for British businesses and help to build relations with intellectual property agencies in China," Baroness Wilcox said. "We need an efficient global intellectual property system where businesses have the confidence to trade in growing markets. I'm delighted that we have been able to agree to share information and ensure that intellectual property rights both here and in China are enforced robustly."

The announcement was made at the first UK-China IP Symposium, held in London last week. Representatives from both the UK and Chinese business communities were in attendance along with Commissioner Tian Lipu, Minister from the State Intellectual Property Office of the People's Republic of China (SIPO).

In a speech delivered to the symposium, Tian admitted that the implementation of an effective IP framework in China had "a long way to go". However, the country had never avoided its legal responsibilities, he said.

"Some media have shown questionable professionalism by covering IP-related issues in China with lots of distorted and false information. I got such an impression that if you want to draw attention in the western media... point your finger at the intellectual property protection in China," he said.

"The Government of China... has made unremitting efforts to solve [the problems], and has achieved much progress... To aggrandise and distort the issue either intentionally or accidentally does not only fall short of facts, but will not do businesses or the public any good."

The commissioner said that as of the end of October 2011, the number of UK patent applications filed had reached 20,510.

Last week, inventor Sir James Dyson warned that China risked being expelled from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over copyright breaches including those of his own range of vacuum cleaners. He also said that inventors within the country benefitted from a "two-speed" patent system that appeared to discriminate against international applications.

In comments reported by the Guardian newspaper, Dyson claimed that Chinese applications took less than a year while those of foreign businesses could take up to five years.

"Under WTO regulations, each country is supposed to treat foreign patent applications with the same speed as local applications. But they are passing Chinese applications in months and taking five years for ours. If we have someone copying our products in China we cannot sue them until our patent is passed. This has not created a level playing field," he said.