China is currently the biggest producer of counterfeit goods in the world. The country has an immense black market that creates and sells pirated versions of almost every product – from knockoff signature clothes to bootlegged films and books, to imitation consumer electronics and aircraft parts (Everding n. pag. ). China, therefore, is both a haven and hell for many entrepreneurs. While the former is commercially attractive due to its cheap and abundant labor, it is likewise associated with billions of dollars in lost sales due to piracy.
Intellectual property is broadly defined as “the legal rights which result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields” (WIPO 3). Simply put, intellectual property protects creations of the mind from unlawful possession and or usage. Intellectual property has two general classifications – industrial property and copyright. Industrial property refers to protection in the forms of patents, trademark laws and directives that safeguard industrial designs. Copyright, on the other hand, grants inventors certain rights to authorize or prohibit specific uses of their works (WIPO 3).
The protection of intellectual property became one of the most contentious issues in Chinese law as soon as the country opened its markets to the West. Since 1979, China has promulgated several laws in the three major areas of intellectual property – trademarks, copyrights and patents. Despite aggressive attempts from the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the State Council to adopt laws and regulations that would protect the interests of both domestic and foreign parties, the effective enforcement of China’s intellectual property laws is still in a fledgling stage (Zimmerman 563).
This is because there are several factors that undermine measures to enforce the country’s intellectual property laws. First among these factors is China’s reliance on administrative instead of criminal measures to combat intellectual property violations. In theory, the country’s intellectual property laws are patterned after Western notions of “private property rights and private causes of action to enforce such rights” (Campbell 231). But because of China’s socialist model of government, the task of regulating property rights continues to fall mainly on the State.
Thus, it is evident that the aforementioned laws are incompatible with the political structure of China. Such incompatibility is dangerous, as it can give way to corruption – the second factor behind the poor implementation of China’s intellectual property laws. Corrupt politicians who are heavily involved in the piracy business, for instance, may intentionally give an erroneous interpretation of China’s intellectual property laws in order to protect their interests as well as those of their cronies.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this claim is commonplace in Chinese politics. There is also anecdotal evidence that imply that China’s piracy kingpins can easily bribe the police and the judiciary in order to escape accountability for their crimes (Campbell 232). The third factor would be localism. In China, intellectual property laws are usually enforced on a regional level. Thus, there is a lack of coordination among responsible institutions.
This lack of coordination is exacerbated by turf wars among local officials – the latter generally oppose cross-locality enforcement (Campbell 232). Worse, many local officials are unsympathetic towards intellectual property because they profit immensely from piracy (Campbell 233). Indeed, why would they work towards putting an end to an industry in which they have a direct interest? In the end, it all boils down to the fact that piracy is very rampant in China mainly because the parties that are supposed to end it are actually profiting immensely from it.
Despite protests from various Western countries, particularly the United States, China will not bother to play blind, deaf and dumb when it comes to the issue of piracy. China is very much aware that Western corporations are too revenue-minded to shift their operations in other countries. Despite the negative political and economic issues that is currently hounding China, the fact remains that it is still the world’s leading source of cheap products and labor. Works Cited Campbell, Dennis. The Comparative Law Yearbook of International Relations.
Frederick: Kluwer Law International, 2005. Everding, Gerry. “War on Intellectual Property Theft in China Best Fought at Local Level, Suggests New Book. ” 6 September 2005. Washington University in St. Louis. 29 April 2009 <http://news-info. wustl. edu/tips/page/normal/5691. html>. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Introduction to Intellectual Property: Theory and Practice. London: Kluwer Law International, 1997. Zimmerman, James M. China Law Deskbook: A Legal Guide for Foreign-Invested Enterprises. 2nd ed. Chicago: Ameri