Are Chinese courts out to nab Western technology? Comments from an expert

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal answered the above question in the affirmative. I assumed upon starting to read the article that there would be a comment from Mark Cohen, a leading expert in Chinese IP law and practice, or someone like him. Nope. Not a single expert in Chinese IP law, or Chinese law of any kind, was quoted in the article or appears to have been consulted. It’s hard to understand why neither the authors nor their editors thought this would be a good idea. Would they write about astrophysics the same way?

Here’s Mark’s commentary on the article. It’s very much worth reading. TL;DR: it’s complicated!

Some money quotes:

The WSJ article argues that there has been a decline in IP protection in China compared to prior years to make the point that China has newly “mobilized its legal system.”  The data and anecdotes in the article do not make out an overwhelming case for that proposition.  There are indications that the environment is improving for both foreigners and domestic parties alike in a wide range of IP rights.


If the WSJ wanted to make a point about declining patent protection for foreigners, a good starting point would be to determine whether counterpart patents to those that were invalidated in China were granted in other jurisdictions.  This is one of several “shortcuts” to evaluating quality and non-discrimination.


With a civil docket of 600,000 IP cases, there are at least 600,000 IP stories in China each year.  The patent and trademark offices are also several times larger than the United States at this point in time. China also has developed the largest cadre of expert IP judges in the world who are often quite familiar with foreign practices. That’s a lot for a journalist to cover.  No doubt many cases could have been better decided, and local companies or technologies were protected to the disadvantage of foreigners. In a complex environment such as China, journalists might consider testing their assumptions by consulting experts, deepening their investigations, recognizing the complexity of their arguments, and understanding the data behind the stories.

Posted in: Law