Friday, 1 October 2010

Industry sceptical about UK-China copyright agreement

The UK and China have signed an agreement that will see both countries work closely together on copyright issues. On 3 September, the UK Intellectual Property Minister, Baroness Judith Wilcox, signed the Memorandum of Under-standing on Strategic Cooperation on Copyright (MoU) with Liu Binjie, the Minister of the National Copyright Administration of China. Both countries agreed to seek coordination on copyright issues, exchange ideas and best practices, and improve IP laws.

Many experts are sceptical about the impact of the MoU, which defines itself as ‘a general framework for bilateral cooperation’. “I doubt whether the agreement will have any impact on copyright enforcement”, said Lewis Ho, Partner at Simmons & Simmons in Shanghai. “Websites in China blatantly make films and other copyrighted work available to the public. Some  websites even receive funding from venture capital and are seeking approval to float on the stock exchange.”

Rico Calleja, Consultant at Calleja Consulting, said: “UK companies should not expect an instant improvement in protection of their IP in China and should continue to take a cautious approach”.

But a spokesperson for the UK Intellectual Property Office, insists that “the MoU is binding for both parties and reducing online piracy is certainly a very important aspect [of the agreement]”. 

“Any initiative to improve the protection of IP through international cooperation in combatting counterfeiting and piracy must be welcomed”, said Andrew Tibber, Partner at Burges Salmon. “While there do not seem to be any concrete proposals as yet, a programme for raising awareness of the legal framework for protecting copyrights in China would give British businesses the confidence to expand into what is still perceived as a risky, but potentially lucrative arena.” 

With the MoU, China anticipates to improve its business image. “This is the latest in a series of developments helping to position China as a safe trading ground for innovators”, said Adrian Tombling, Attorney at Withers & Rogers. “In October last year, the People’s Congress announced amendments to its country’s IP regime, bringing it into line with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs)”. TRIPs was established by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1994 and sets minimum IP standards for WTO Member States.

In China, summer 2010


This article was previously published in E-Commerce Magazine, London 2010. Copyrights apply, also for Chinese