Japan and China Strengthening Cooperation for Protecting Intellectual Property Rights

by Konomi Takeshita, Patent AttorneyRecently, Japan and China appear to be bolstering their cooperation in improving the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), in order to support economic stability in the region.  In June 2009, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and established for the first time a working group to protect IPR.  Such efforts resulted from China’s desire to have closer ties with its major trading partners during the global recession.  China is Japan’s largest trading partner, and Japanese companies have complained about the problem of intellectual property infringements in China.  It is known worldwide, for example, that copyright violations are rampant in the People’s Republic of China.  In 2007, the Office of the United States Trade Representative placed the country on its “priority watch list” for intellectual property rights violations, along with eleven other nations.The above-mentioned MOU was signed by China’s Ministry of Commerce and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).  Two months later, in August 2009, Japan’s METI signed a second MOU with China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC).  This second MOU resulted from the Japanese government’s desire to improve communications with China’s trademark administrator, due to the counterfeiting of Japanese products manufactured in China and the related infringements of Japanese companies’ trademarks in China.  Under this second MOU, Japan and China will cooperate in a range of intellectual property enforcement issues, including trademark registration, examination, oppositions, fighting against counterfeit products and unfair competition relating to intellectual property, IPR protection on the internet, and improving the public’s awareness of intellectual property protection.Some legal experts believe that the signing of the MOUs, although they are not binding, may boost good will between the two nations and have significant impacts on their laws and regulations.  Such bilateral cooperation in the intellectual property area may also promote economic and technological cooperation between Japan and China.  Japan may use the MOUs to convey its frustrations and problems regarding Chinese imitations of Japanese products.  China may derive advantages from Japan’s successful experiences in IPR enforcement.As another indication of cooperation in the East Asia region, in October 2009, a Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Trilateral Summit Meeting produced a joint statement stressing the need for greater cooperation among the three countries in various essential areas, including intellectual property.  The meeting, held in Beijing, was chaired by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and attended by ROK President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.A communiqué from the meeting stated that, “We will make full use of the great potential of the three economies and bring to higher levels our cooperation in key areas such as business, trade, finance, investment, logistics, intellectual property, customs, information, science and technology, energy conservation, environmental protection and the circular economy.”The other countries currently on the “priority watch list” include Russia, Canada, India and Venezuela, among others.?

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