Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Liu Hua is the director of World Intellectual Property Organization Office in China. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
The current international development trends bring new challenges and opportunities for building the intellectual property (IP) system and global IP governance. The world is full of uncertainties on account of changes unseen in a century, as well as the global pandemic outbreak, but what is certain is that the role of IP will continue to rise in rebuilding the economy and achieving sustainable development.
As the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for IP, innovations and creativity, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is often referred as a golden knowledge asset. As an extension of WIPO in China, the work of the WIPO Office in China (WOC) is twofold, both inward and outward. By outward, the WOC promotes China's innovative development on the world stage; and by inward, the WOC promotes WIPO's global IP protection services to contribute to China's economic and social development.
China has become an important pole in the global innovations' landscape
With the eastward shift of the cluster of innovations in Asia, China has gradually become an important pole in the global innovations' landscape, establishing itself as a global innovations' leader. China rose to the 12th place in the Global Innovation Index 2021 (GII 2021), ranking first in the world in terms of the filings of patents, trademarks and industrial designs by origin and the creative goods exports, with industrial design applications accounting for 55 percent of all global filings. China is the only middle-income economy in the GII Top 15 and is knocking on the door of the GII Top 10. In 2022, for the first time, China has as many top science and technology clusters as the U.S., with 21 apiece; China holds three of the world's top 10 top science and technology clusters, with Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai-Suzhou ranked second, third and sixth respectively.
Meanwhile, IP has great potential in China's journey to build an innovative-oriented country. In recent years, China has promulgated important policy documents in the field of IP. Building a sound system for IP protection and application has been included in the 14th Five-Year Plan. The Guidelines for Building a Powerful Intellectual Property Nation (2021-2035) sets out the overall goal of building a world-class IP power with Chinese characteristics. The 14th Five-Year National Plan for the Intellectual Property Protection and Application draws comprehensive plans for China's IP work in the next five years, setting a target of 12 high-value invention patents per 10,000 people by 2025.
China has made notable achievements in IP protections and commercialization. It is encouraging to observe that on May 5, 2022, when the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs officially entered into force in the country, Chinese companies filed more than 100 international applications for industrial designs through the Hague System, demonstrating much importance that Chinese companies attach to IP protections and their strong willingness to integrate into the global IP ecosystem.
Geographical indications protection underpins China's rural revitalization campaign
In today's quality-oriented consumer goods market, appellations of origin and geographical indications (GIs) are powerful branding and marketing tools that can meet the growing market demand for quality products based on their traditional origins. Meanwhile, GIs, as one of the oldest forms of intangible property and a crucial feature of IP, can enhance the international visibility and competitiveness of a product's place of origin.
China is an ancient civilization with 5,000 years of cultural history and long history of agricultural and handicraft development. Many high-quality agricultural products and handicrafts produced in China have earned international recognition and reputation. A series of Chinese GIs seen in local specialties, such as Pu'er tea, Hami melon, Lantian jade, Zhenjiang vinegar, Wujiang silk, Korla pear, Jingdezhen porcelain, Yangcheng Lake hairy crab, Ordos fine wool sheep, have become the synonyms of sound quality.
GI protection has become an effective path for China to engage in poverty alleviation, rural revitalization and urban-rural integration, with the potential of leading to common development. In December 2020, the WOC visited Sangzhi County in the city of Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, for the field research of the GI product "Sangzhi reed leaves." As a beneficiary of the IP system, Sangzhi County has become the largest export base for reed leaves, which are exported to 16 countries and regions including Southeast Asia, with an annual sales volume of over 8,000 tons and total revenue of over 120 million Chinese yuan (about $17 million). Therefore, GI protection has become an effective means to eliminate poverty, increase income and achieve green development in the local area.
Moreover, GI protection also provide a boost for Chinese brands to gain brand premiums and scale up production and sales. On September 14, 2020, China and the European Union signed the China-EU Agreement on Geographical Indications, which came into effect on March 1, 2021. This agreement is China’s first comprehensive and high-level bilateral agreement on GI protection. It reflects the country's commitment to amplify the attractiveness of its rich GI resources in the global market; it also reflects the strengthening of China-EU economic and trade cooperation. The "Qianjiang crayfish," which was selected for the first batch of GI products protected and recognized in China and EU markets, has a brand value of 28.89 billion Chinese yuan (about $4.12 billion) in 2022, up 14.7 percent YoY. Qianjiang County also served as the sole source of crayfish supply for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
With its vast territory, diverse resources and long history of development, China has produced a large number of local specialties with distinctive regional characteristics in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, fishery and traditional crafts. Their special qualities have granted themselves brand premiums and have been developed into GI products, many of which are a major part of the local economy or even pillar industries, with tremendous potential to enter the international market and turn into a boon for the local area.
WIPO looks forward to cooperating with China in the protection of GIs and providing support to jointly promote GI products with unique qualities and Chinese characteristics in the international market, so that more Chinese GI products can reach the world's markets through the Lisbon system – the International System of Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications administered by WIPO.
Looking back over the past 50 years, China has been a major contributor to the work of WIPO. WIPO is committed to build an inclusive, balanced, vibrant and forward-looking global IP ecosystem, and will also strengthen cooperation with China on new technologies, such as in artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain, working together on international IP development and ushering in a new chapter of development together.