Sunday, September 23, 2012

Speaking at China IP Focus 2012, Shanghai, Sept. 20-21, 2012

One of my favorite recent IP conferences was just held in Shanghai. It was the China Intellectual Property Focus 2012 held at the Doubletree Hotel in PuDong. We got to hear extensively from a recently retired Supreme Court Justice, Judge Jiang Zhipei, who shared much about the development of IP law in China and the bold path China is pursuing. We also heard from Ben Wang, R&D leader for Unilever in China, and from many other authorities from Europe, the US, and especially China.

On the second day, I shared my perspectives about the role of IP strategy in dealing with disruptive innovation, and including some of my thoughts about Chinese companies and the lack of respect they get from the West when it comes to innovation and IP. My main point, though, was that large companies need to have aggressive IP-generators who help mitigate future risks by building low-cost but aggressive IP estates in emerging areas and in potentially disruptive areas. Risk aversion is the battle cry, but the "hidden agenda" is actually to help the company prepare for future opportunities in those areas. With proactive IP filed early, when the business units of the company later recognize the importance of market trends and see or feel the need to pursue areas that once looked a little too non-standard/disruptive for comfort, well, when that happens, it won't be too late as is usually the case with disruptive innovation, but the company will find that they are actually prepared with a foundation of IP that can help them survive and move forward more easily.

The application of "disruptive IP strategy" involves some risk and cost, but the costs can be contained and the potential benefits can be huge. A handful of visionary people can help create future-looking IP much more easily than they can convince the company to change directions and make massive investments in new areas. But that IP can later help save the day when the significance of a disruptive threat or opportunity is recognized, often several years down the road.

There were some excellent questions on this topic, including one about the difference in resources and skills between Western companies and Chinese companies. There was a perception, though, that Western companies must be really good at dealing with disruptive innovation and being proactive with their IP. Not so! They are as clumsy and short-sighted as ever, and the opportunity for Chinese companies to seize the future with disruptive innovation and disruptive IP is great. In fact, it's already happening in some quarters. The need for all of us to be more aware and more proactive with out IP is serious.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Historic Event in IP Collaboration: The US-China IP Adjudication Conference, May 28-30, 2012, Beijing

After 3 years of planning and navigating complex political waters, a historic event finally took place in Beijing last week at China’s top university for IP law, Renmin University. Top justices, judges, lawyers, business leaders and academicians from the US and China gathered for 3 intensive days of sharing regarding intellectual property and the courts. There were over 1,000 people that attended, including numerous judges and IP thought leaders from China and the US. The number of judges from China was said to be 300, though most of the Chinese people I met were not judges but lawyers, business leaders, and students, though I did have lunch with a Chinese judge and met several in other settings during the conference.

The leaders and speakers of the conference included US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Chief Justice Randall Rader, one of the most brilliant and influential minds in US patent law whose decisions have long been shaping US law and practice. He is a strong advocate of international collaboration and appears to have been one of the primary driving forces between this event. I was pleased to see a total of 7 Federal Circuit judges present, most visiting China for their fist time, including these 6 Circuit Judges: Raymond C. Clevenger III, Richard Linn, Timothy B. Dyk, Sharon Prost, Kimberly A. Moore, and Jimmie V. Reyna. Also playing prominent roles were Gary Locke, US Ambassador to China; David Kappos, Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office; Mark Cohen, the USPTO’s former Attaché to the US Embassy in Beijing; Steven C. Lambert, President, Federal Circuit Bar Association; and many others. Mark Cohen wowed the crowd by delivering his speech in fluent Mandarin, though his rather erudite citations of Chinese poetry and classics sometimes challenged the gifted translators who made this bilingual conference accessible to everyone present.

On the Chinese side, we were elated to have active participation by Chief Judge Kong Xiangjun, IPR Tribunal of the Supreme People’s Court. Also from the IPR Tribunal of the Supreme People’s Court were Deputy Chief Judge Jin Kesheng, Supervisory Attaché Zhang Shengzu, Presiding Judge Yu Xiaobai, Presiding Judge Wang Yongchang, Presiding Judge Xia Junli, and Judge Zhu Li. These judges, with the 7 from the US Federal Circuit, were part of an “en banc” panel discussing US and China law and IP adjudication. Fascinating! Also representing China was Chong Quan, Deputy Deputy China International Trade Representative and a leader of MOFCOM (China Ministry of Commerce).

In addition to many keynote speeches and panel discussions, there were also breakout sessions on such topics such as trademark law, patent litigation, pharmaceutical patent adjudication, and copyright law. Definitely one of the most interesting and information-packed IP conferences I've ever attended.

For many, the highlight may have been the afternoon of mock trials in which the same case was presented in an appeal to the US Federal Circuit and to the IPR Tribunal of the People’s Supreme Court of China. Judge Rader lead the 3-judge panel for the US mock trial. The mock trials allowed representatives of both nations to quickly grasp important differences in procedure, though both courts came to essentially the same conclusion in a genuinely interesting real case involving an advance in safety equipment for a circular saw. Following the trials, there was further exchange between the judges of both countries as they discussed their different systems and what they had learned from one another. What a tremendous learning experience and example of meaningful international cooperation.

The rapidity of China’s progress in IP law and adjudication has been breathtaking, in spite of the many complaints made by voices in the West, and the obvious need for further improvements. But from a historical perspective, to go from virtually no IP law in the early 1980s to a world-class system that is leading the world in patent filing now, with the ability of foreign plaintiffs to win against Chinese companies in Chinese courts, represents massive progress worthy of respect. Exchanges like this recent one in Beijing will influence the thought leaders of both nations to further learn from each other and strengthen our approaches to IP law. Many thanks to all those who made this monumental event possible.

In the closing session, I was able to ask a question to the panelists about what future impact they anticipated might come from this exchange. Chief Judge Kong kindly fielded that question and spoke eloquently of the growth of IP law in China and the rich opportunity they had to draw from the US experience and strengthen their system. There is no doubt in my mind that China is rapidly learning and growing and a visionary eye toward the future. I hope the US can keep up and remain a worthy partner and competitor!

Below are some photos of the event that I took.

Related resources: David Kappos’ blog, “China as an IP Stakeholder.”

Liu Yang, Exec. VP of the China Law Society, introduces speakers in the first session.  Also visible are Mark Cohen (USPTO), Chong Quan (MOFCOM), David Kappos (USPTO), and Shen De Yong (VP of the Supreme People's Court).

First session. Left to right: David Kappos (USPTO), Shen Deyong (VP Supreme People's Court), Chief Judge Randall Rader (US CAFC), Chen Jiping (Executive VP, China Law Society), US Ambassador Gary Locke, and Chen Yulu (President, Renmin University).

The US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, speaks on the importance of innovation and collaboration.

Chief Judge Randall Rader is one of the rock starts of IP--literally. I asked him if he was going to perform for us in the evening but sadly, he informed me that he had left his band behind in the US for this event. I took the opportunity to compliment Judge Rader on setting a great example by being visibly active in areas other than his profession alone. His pursuit of rock music with a real band, even while in the judiciary, is one of many attributes that makes Judge Rader one of the more interesting and likable people in IP law. His passion for China is also part of the Rader equation. Many thanks for making this historic event happen!

David Kappos deserves a lot of credit also for his support of international cooperation with China and other nations.

Another highly likeable luminary of IP is Mark Cohen, a Chinese law scholar and fluent Mandarin speaker who created quite a stir with his presentation in eloquent and rather advanced Mandarin. Kudos!

Richard Rainey, Executive Counsel, IP Litigation, General Electric.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Innovation Renaissance in China

I've been away from this blog for quite a few months as I've begun an exciting journey of innovation and IP strategy in China. Since 2011 I've been living in Shanghai, where I'm now Head of Intellectual Property for one of the world's largest and most rapidly growing forest products companies, Asia Pulp and Paper. Innovation and IP protection are becoming bywords of industry in China, even as the West continues to ignore China as a source of innovation. But the culture is shifting as the economy develops and as China's IP system matures, and the result is that copying is no longer going to bring lasting success. Innovation, backed with IP to protect one's competitive edge, is increasingly becoming the key for success in China.

China just became the world leader in the filing of patents. Yes, many have questionable quality, but there is a large body of high-quality IP being developed, manifest by the growing emphasis on internationally filed patents as well as Chinese patents. Heavy investment in Chinese R&D is also occurring, and China is now in the #2 position globally for published technical papers. The time of ignoring China's innovation and IP is ending, though some companies and nations are trying their best to keep their eyes closed.

More to follow.....