Flying the flag for UK-China IP cooperation

By Emily Tan, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

Flying the flag for UK-China IP cooperation
-Interview with Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property of the UK


In December 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron led a delegation of British ministers and business executives to China for a four-day visit, the largest British delegation ever sent to China. During the visit, David Cameron and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang discussed intellectual property (IP) which laid a solid foundation for further bilateral IP cooperation. As decided by the two Premiers, less than a year later, in September 2014, Baroness Neville- Rolfe, the newly appointed Minister for Intellectual Property of the UK, raised a new sail for UK-China IP cooperation. Accompanied by a number of the UK’s leading knowledge-based companies and representatives from IP-intensive industries, the Baroness led the first ever UK ministerial delegation to China with a focus on IP.

The week-long visit began with the 2nd UK-China IP Symposium in Beijing, hosted in partnership with Chinese State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO). The Symposium brought together more than 150 representatives from UK and Chinese firms and government to address key IP issues of interest to both countries.

The Symposium provided a platform for detailed exchanges between UK and Chinese IP agencies on intellectual property policy, as well as offering businesses an opportunity to build stronger relationships with their international counterparts. The participants discussed a number of topics on the key aspects of IP, including enforcement, trademarks, patents, and designs.

During the visit, the Baroness, along with her delegation visited Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou, Chongqing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. China IP got the chance to interview Baroness Neville-Rolfe during her busy schedule.


China IP: How do you feel about your new position, and what do you think about China’s IPR protection in recent years?
Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I was surprised but absolutely delighted to be made intellectual property minister in July. I always have had a passion for innovation, creativity and ideas. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in China in previous roles and I was very pleased to discover that my first overseas visit would be to China, for a week of talks on IP. This is the first ever ministerial delegation to China to focus on IP. Many of the representatives in the delegation are from well-known companies in the UK, including AstraZeneca, Burberry, Unilever, and other IP-intensive industries. British investors continue to have concerns in relation to IP in China. However, since China’s accession to the WTO in 2001, the IP situation has been improving. Like the UK, China has a robust legislative framework for IP in most areas but is facing a significant challenge to enforce these rules. Enforcement is also a challenging issue for the UK but I hope through greater cooperation the UK and China will improve these systems.


China IP: What are you planning to achieve in this visit? What kind of cooperation will be conducted in the future between the two countries?
Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I think I come mainly to develop cooperation between the UK and China. Bilateral cooperation on IP protection is quite important for both countries. We have similar interests in wanting to create high value and advanced technology economies, and having creativity as an important part of the growth agenda. In the UK, creative industries account for 5.6% of the jobs in the UK. In China, 5.5% of the growth comes from creativity. As we see from these figures, both countries understand the advantage of supporting IP. The Chinese government is very much focused on encouraging bilateral cooperation. During the last year the UK and China have held two summits, one in London and one in Beijing, both British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended.

Amongst many other things, I will be discussing three key UK-China cooperation projects. One is the Patent Protection Highway (PPH), which became operation on 1st July. Companies which apply for a patent in China or the UK can have accelerated approval in the other office. It is very important because it helps businesses to obtain a patent faster. We understand that there are two applications from China so far and nine from China to the UK, but I think that joint endeavors such as this will be increasingly useful. Under the encouragement of the Chinese government, patent and trademark applications are growing, we hope the PPH program will encourage IP exports of China as well.

Second is about copyright licensing. It is crucial that copyright holders receive income from the artistic rights that they own. The UK facilitated an agreement between the UK’s Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and the China Written Works Copyright Society which will allow artists in China to get income for their creative works that are sold in Britain. And this system has huge potential. In the future it could be worth tens of millions of British pounds per year to the economies of both China and the UK.

Thirdly, on September 3rd, the China- Britain Business Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Alibaba Group. The agreement will make it easier for members of China- Britain Business Council to notify Alibaba about infringing products they identify online and will ease their removal. This means fewer counterfeits circulating in China and more confidence for consumers.

In general, we have been talking to counterparts across the Chinese government about how we make sure IP is valued and rights are paid for. And, of course the Chinese authorities themselves are also taking some important measures in those aspects.


China IP: How do you interpret the IPR strategy of the UK, and what are the implications of these policies in relation to China?
Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The first UK-China IP Symposium was held in London in December 2011, and the UK IPO posted their first IP Attaché in the British Embassy in Beijing soon afterwards. The IP Attaché is responsible for enhancing the trade and investment relationship and supporting overseas development of UK’s IP-intensive companies. The UK and China have very frequent exchanges on IP. The UK and other EU countries are attracted to China as a key market thanks to its large population with 1.2 billion potential consumers, which makes it a very competitive target market.
A growing number of Chinese companies have invested in the UK in recent years. For example, the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei established its global research center in the UK. I think the UK’s IPR protection environment gives great confidence to overseas companies. According to the Taylor Wessing Index, the UK was ranked 1st in the world in terms of IP protection. For Chinese investors in Britain, this is very good, which means they can operate with great confidence in the UK market. Whether it is industry or technology investment in the UK, Chinese companies are at the top of the list. Our policy is to try to maximize the benefits of IP, to ensure that we have a strong legislative framework and enforce it properly.

The IPO’s work also extends to universities and schools, we have created a wide range of tools including an app, which are used to encourage people to respect IP.


China IP: As you talked about above, the UK government has adopted a variety of measures to build a favorable IP environment. Could you please share some of the measures with us?
Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The UK IPO has taken a digital approach to IP education, which had impressed me most. Different apps on IP can be found on its website: for business or the general public on different elements of IP.

There are also games for children and teenagers. For example, there is one game called “Music Inc.” which lets people try to run a music company, they may encounter problems not only in relation to running a company, but also losing rights.

These kind of creative ways of educating are very important to schools. The office also has very strong links with universities, and tries to ensure that the university courses are related to IP, not only in business studies, but also in science and technology courses. Both the teachers and students need to have awareness of the value of creative ideas, and make sure they are properly registered in time under the patent, trademark and design framework for the future. It is a big opportunity which complements the legislation framework.


China IP: You are quite experienced in doing business. I understand that you held senior management positions at Tesco PLC from 1997 to 2013, and you were the company secretary from 2004- 2006 and an executive director on the main Board from 2006-2013. You previously sat on the boards of several major businesses, including serving as a non-executive director for ITV PLC and 2 Sisters Food Group, a large privately owned UK food producer, as a member of the supervisory board of Metro Group, a large German-based international retailer and wholesaler, and on PWC’s advisory Board. Does the business background have any influence on your current work?
Baroness Neville-Rolfe: As you have mentioned, I worked in business for 16 years in various companies, I was also President of Euro Commerce. I think I really understand the business perspective, what kind of questions they ask and what business models they use. The UK government always consults business and legal experts to learn how a policy can be properly operated in practice, and the consultation process helps the government to make sure whether the regulation and implementation plan are sound. Government and business don’t always agree, but they can always look together at how things will be implemented.

Besides, I think I can bring to the government the understanding of needing to plan ahead and needing to understand where the strategy and policy is going. This is also important to the partnership between countries.

I am also privileged to have visited China a number of times whilst working in the business field. I particularly enjoyed my visit to the Shanghai Expo in 2010 where we had meetings with Chinese businesses. We also visited the China Pavilion, which was a marvelous success with video art of the history of China. A superb experience.


China IP: What are your expectations of the bilateral IP cooperation?
Baroness Neville-Rolfe: We’ve had a great week of cooperation, and I would like to see this continue. I also would like to see the various initiatives we’ve agreed achieving results, for both Chinese and British industry. I would like this partnership between the UK and China on growth, reform and innovation to continue flourishing and get to high levels. I look forward to welcoming friends from SIPO to visit us later this year and continue this progressive ideas sharing.


About Baroness Neville-Rolfe


Baroness Neville-Rolfe was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Intellectual Property at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in July 2014.


She is the Minster responsible for the UK national intellectual property strategy and for the Intellectual Property Office.


In addition to IP, she is responsible for the work of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the House of Lords. This includes innovation policy, industrial strategies, business regulation, and consumer protection.


She also has responsibility for coordinating EU engagement across all policy areas of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and is co-chair of the Professional and Business Services (PBS) Council.


It is worth mentioning that Baroness Neville-Rolfe has been honoured by the Queen for her service on the Foreign and Commonwealth Board (CMG, 2005) and for services to industry and the voluntary sector (DBE, 2012).


 

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