China-U.S. IP Policy:
Not a Two-Way Street
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) held a public hearing on June 15 and 16 that focused on China’s IP policies and their effect on the U.S. economy. The ITC, which hears Section 337 investigations involving unfair IP competition, is a relatively fast-track option to district courts.
Among the organizations and witnesses testifying was Hon. Bruce A. Lehman, former USPTO Commissioner and Undersecretary of Commerce from 1993-1998 and President of the International Intellectual Property Institute, an un-affiliated IP think tank. Lehman believes the U.S. IP relationship with China, which was negotiated on good faith in the 1990s, is failing miserably.
“Between 1998 and 2008 the U.S. trade deficit with China grew from$81.8 billion to $268 billion,” notes Lehman.
“The underlying assumption [of the Clinton Administration] was that the United States would permit China and other developing countries to benefit from their comparative advantage in labor costs, while we would benefit from our comparative advantage in technology. Ideally, this would work to the benefit of both parties.”
Unfortunately, full value of U.S. technology and products have not been realized because piracy and IP rights infringement is rampant and constitute a significant and still growing part of the Chinese economy.
“Taken all together the various aspects of the emerging Chinese intellectual property system combine to disadvantage IPR based imports,” continues Lehman, “sheltering domestic technology and information based industries from effective foreign competition, while the Chinese create their own export-competitive industries.”
The full text of Lehman’s testimonycan be found at this link. It’s worth reading and remembering.