Likely bolstered by government incentives, China surpassed the U.S. and Japan to file more patents in 2011 than any other country, according to a Dec. 21, 2011, Thomson Reuters report. From 2006 to 2010, filings rose by an average of 16.7 percent annually.
That’s not bad for a country that only adopted its first IP law in 1984—a couple centuries after the first U.S. Patent Act became law. But China still has a long way to go before patent owners feel confident that their rights will be adequately protected in the country.
Still, U.S. officials’ recent complaints about the enforcement of IP rights in China seem to have reached a fever pitch (see “Constructive Criticisms”).
And the Chinese government may be listening. In November and December 2011, it announced measures aimed at strengthening IP rights enforcement.
“Flexible fines seems like a bad idea for deterrence because research has shown that punishment certainty is far more effective to deter crime than punishment severity,” Friedmann says. “The Chinese government executes people that bring lethal counterfeit foods and drugs on the market, yet it is still a very big problem in China.”
Also at the press conference, Jiang said China will amend criminal laws so that evidence rules aren’t so hard on IP owners. Some observers say an updated evidentiary system would be a more effective way to make damages for infringements fairer and more effective. Because China has no discovery system, it can be difficult for patentees to obtain the evidence sufficient to prove the extent of their losses and of an infringer’s profit.