Scholar Liu Chuntian

By Kevin Nie, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

On November 26, 2009, Renmin University of China formally announced the establishment of the Intellectual Property School. As the founding Dean of the IP School, Professor Liu Chuntian also came to the forefront and attracted much attention from the media.
Looking over Liu Chuntian’s CV, we will find that his career is very “single” and can be summed up in a few words: He enrolled in Renmin University of China in 1978, followed Professor Tong Rou in his graduate courses in civil law and then kept teaching for more than 20 years. What he has done can be simply summarized in two ways: one is teaching and researching in intellectual property law and the other is in promoting the development of China’s IP cause as an expert. However, if we look into his life, we also find a lot of hardship.
Embark on the road of IP teaching
Liu Chuntian has a profound understanding of the intellectual property system. He believes that intellectual property is derived from the problem of understanding an intellectual’s status. “In the industrialization process, it is the most important thing to settle the status of intellectuals. Now the western world has resolved this problem. How? In fact, it depends on the intellectual property system. We did not look at it this way in the past, but now we should be more and more aware of it.”
“The so-called process of industrialization is the large-scale replication of agricultural and industrial products and then to make property out of this technology. It can be simply said that technology replication, or modern industrialization is technology replication. Where replication appears, replication itself turns into a means of intellectual entrepreneurship. The most important legal principle in capitalism is the sanctity of private property and equality before the law. This derives from three principles. The first and foremost principle resolves the sanctity of the private ownership of property. Then the labor law protection formed in the employment of labor; and finally in order to protect the intellectuals, there comes the intellectual property system.”
“In the past, intellectuals were attached to the powerful, rich and noble class. The western countries implemented the sponsorship system. In contrast, China had the imperial examination system, which promised some intellectuals the possibility of becoming officials in the future. At that time, the movable type printing had been invented, but not to make money. After industrial production emerged, the technology was given to investors to create the market and to reproduce the technology. Workers were hired to reproduce, which was a special part. Thus, intellectuals no longer depended on the powerful, rich and noble class. Investors and workers were interdependent rather than dependent. This is a way of life. The essence of capital is to make money, which also requires creating life.”
When talking about his research into intellectual property law, Professor Liu Chuntian said that it was both contingent and inevitable. “I studied civil law in the first place and I am interested in this field. The concept and principle of civil law is equality and not privilege. After reform and the opening up, China’s economy has been diversified and the society became more vibrant. Everyone wants to make money and get rich, and everyone hopes for fairness and good order. The Intellectual property system is a fair system that is conducive to fair and orderly competition. Selection itself is also contingent. At that time, intellectual property law was a brand new field, but I was sensitive to this area. IP law is much like what I was learning in civil law because they have the same genes, so I chose it. In short, this choice is determined by internal and external factors, social needs as well as personal opportunities.”
In the middle of 1980s, the majority of society still did not know about intellectual property. “Now even the street peddlers knew anything about intellectual property. However, at that time, few understood this concept. There were more than 100 teachers in our law school, but less than one-third understood the concept of intellectual property.”
In 1985, Professor Liu Chuntian opened the first systematical intellectual property law courses in China, which became part of the training program for law undergraduates. “I was the first one to open IP courses at home. So far, a quarter of a century has passed.” It’s been many years, but Professor Liu Chuntian still showed pride in his face when talking about this.
The following year, The World Intellectual Property Organization wrote to the leaders of the previous State Education Commission and proposed to set up a formal institution engaged in IP research and education so as to meet the development needs of China’s reform and opening up. Therefore, the State Education Commission convened a symposium with Peking University, Tsinghua University, Remin University of China, Fudan University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Xi’an Jiaotong University. It was decided at the symposium to build a teaching and research center in Beijing and three sub-centers in the northwest, central and eastern China. Then the centers began to carry out related work in higher education field in China.
“Later, the WIPO sent a group of experts to China to discuss the specific issues of implementation. At the very beginning, people did not understand this project quite well. They thought WIPO was as rich as other UN organizations, the World Bank for example. In fact, WIPO had no money, because it was a co-ordination organization. Thus, some people chose not to continue with the project without money. We did not do this for money in Renmin University. At last, the State Education Commission issued the document to commission Renmin University to build this subject. So, it is that simple.”
“At that time a lot of people were not optimistic about this subject, but we kept on firmly. We are the founder and pioneer in domestic IP education. A great many IP professionals in practical, legislative, judicial and academic fields were cultivated by Renmin University.”
“At the beginning, we could not even get textbooks in intellectual property, so most of our teaching material came from abroad. The General Principles of the Civil Law, adopted on April 12, 1986 was of great help to us. The chapter for civil rights has a special paragraph for intellectual property law, which mentioned copyright, trademark and patent rights. This pattern was laid down from a legislative point of view, since it was defined as a civil and property right. Therefore, we could use the principles of civil law in our lectures and research and explain intellectual property law by using the civil law system and concept.”
Promoter for intellectual property development
Teaching is a lifetime career for Liu Chuntian. Many of his students have become well-known lawyers or business elites. Apart from teaching, Liu has also witnessed and participated in the development of intellectual property in China, particularly in the formulation of many Chinese intellectual property laws. When it comes to the past, Professor Liu Chuntian became very excited and told many stories to the reporter.
On December 24, 1989, the Eleventh Session of the Seventh NPC Standing Committee began to consider the Copyright Law. Since some legal provisions were too controversial, the eleventh meeting did not adopt this law. Then the draft was considered in the 12th, 14th and 15th sessions. During that period, the draft was discussed and amended repeatedly. Finally, the draft law on copyright was passed by the Fifteenth Meeting of the National People’s Congress on September 7, 1990.
In the drafting and consideration, the Chinese title of copyright law was originally called Banquan, the literal translation of “copyright,” and later it was changed to Zhuzuoquan with the focus on an author’s rights, but literally translated as the “right in a work.” Behind this change, there was a tortuous process.
Professor Liu Chuntian recalled that, there were two points of view with regards to the name of this law: some people advocated the use of Banquan while others supported Zhuzuoquan and the two groups formed clear stands. They also launched a fierce long-running debate and published many articles to illustrate their point of view. Professor Liu Chuntian was in the group advocating Zhuzuoquan, while another IP scholar, a previous Researcher in the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Zheng Chengsi, belonged to the other group.
“We two kept very good relations and were quite familiar friends, but our viewpoints were rather different. In discussing the copyright law, Zheng and I were quite confrontational. I wrote an article on Guangming Daily to explain why this law should be called as Zhuzuoquan while Zheng published on the Legal Daily, saying that Banquan should be adopted."
Professor Liu Chuntian explained that Banquan is the literal translation of “Copyright” in English. Since many people obtained their knowledge and understanding of copyright from British or American materials, they firmly support the use of Banquan. They believed that Banquan was an international term, such as the Banquan used in “Universal Copyright Convention”.
“I didn’t think Banquan is proper. Banquan may lead to a one-sided understanding of the publisher’s right, while Zhuzuoquan has no such possibility of such a misunderstanding. Furthermore, from the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China, there have been three laws of Zhuzuoquan in Chinese history. The Taiwan region now also implements the law of Zhuzuoquan, so that this term is conducive to communications across the Taiwan Strait.”
In the early days of drafting, the draft law was called Banquan. Once at the meeting, Liu Chuntian said half-jokingly that in the first 20-plus versions, the law had been called Banquan. How about changing the title into Zhuzuoquan this time? If it is deemed as nonsense and voted down, we still have time to change back and we can also keep a record. It turned out that this version with the title of Zhuzuoquan aroused very strong social response when soliciting opinions from all works of society. “When the law was named after Banquan, a lot of people thought it was related to publishing or something, so they did not care. However, when they saw the new version, many people finally understood it said that China would have a special law protecting the rights of authors.”
This change even caused a small joke. At an NPC session, a commissioner said: “This draft law on Zhuzuoquan was quite fine. Are there similar laws called Banquan? We can consider them at the same time!”
The title of Zhuzuoquan was thus maintained, but the differentiation was not harmonized. When the draft was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for consideration, this problem was still under endless discussion. Professor Liu Chuntian recalls that Wang Hanbin, who presided over the legislation work then, asked the famous jurist Jiang Ping for advice: “This law is about to be adopted, but the title is still in the air. You are a true expert. Could you tell us the best name?” In order to be more prudent, Jiang Ping found Liu Chuntian for his advice. Liu Chuntian explained his reasons why the law should be named after Zhuzuoquan, and introduced the views of Zheng Chengsi as well.
Finally, the law was named Zhuzuoquan,which however, the Article 51 provides: “For the purposes of this Law, the term ‘zhuzuoquan’ equals ‘banquan’.” Professor Liu Chuntian believes that is a compromise provision.
“I am supporting the term Zhuzuoquan, but a law should not have two names. If Banquan was finally chosen, Zhuzuoquan should not be used any more. These two terms are likely to cause confusion. Law is not a divine book, so it should be simple, clear and exoteric instead of ambiguous. Legal document tends to be wordy and not as lively as literature. Why? It is because it should be decisive enough to avoid disputes in the end.”
“The Legislation we are talking about now is the most sophisticated. A tiny discrepancy may lead to a great error, which is of no exaggeration in the legislation field. Legislation is made for all the people of the world. Sima Qian once said that everyone in the world works for profit and chases after profit. Money is involved here and is the core is wealth. If property can be clearly defined in the law, then society will pay a great deal for it. Therefore, scholars must not indulge their personal loyalty. They should assume responsibility for the people.”
When talking about a scholar’s responsibility, Professor Liu Chuntian admitted that he himself had also made serious misjudgments when participating in the drafting work of the Copyright Law. At that time, Zheng Chengsi insisted that the article, “for acts of serious infringement, the related party shall bare criminal liability,” should be included. However, Liu Chuntian went against this article and cancelled it “successfully”. As piracy becomes increasingly rampant, he fully realized the importance of this article. A few years later, the complementary laws and regulations adopted the article with that focus.
Natural qualities of scholars
Professor Liu Chuntian has taken part in the drafting and amendment of the Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Anti-unfair Competition Law and other intellectual property laws. Professor Liu Chuntian has also given IP lectures for state leaders and attended international IP conferences as representative of the Chinese Government. As an expert consultant, he participated in the international negotiations for the WTO, provided advisory services for the Chinese working group on Sino-US IPR disputes, and played an important role in China’s IPR legal system.
Now, as the president of the Intellectual Property School, Professor Liu Chuntian is still busy with teaching and researching in the intellectual property field. He told the reporter that he recently focuses on preparing the Legal History of IP in China and participates in the amendment of Trademark Law.
At the end of this interview, the reporter asked Professor Liu Chuntian whether he has some biographical books for reference. He replied: “I am neither a politician nor entrepreneur. I am only a scholar, so I do not have such books.”
(Translated by Li Yu)

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