WASHINGTON — Amid the buildup for the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China declared a tougher stance on protecting intellectual property rights, but the best measure of the impact will likely come long after the athletes depart.
The Chinese government unveiled the "Outline of National Intellectual Property Rights" this spring and Vice Premier Wang Qishan touted the initiative during his visit with U.S. cabinet members during last month's Strategic Economic Dialogue here.
Wang said China would undertake four specific steps to establish stronger intellectual property rights protections: timely revisions and implementation of legislation protecting patents, trademarks and copyrights; defining the boundaries of intellectual property rights to help "ensure a level playing field" and address abuses; speed up revisions of regulations and laws detailing the punishment for intellectual property violations, and start an educational program condemning piracy, counterfeiting and plagiarism.
The altered position on intellectual property from a country that has historically been a major source of counterfeit goods comes as several key global factors are intersecting. In addition to the Olympics, China faces two pending World Trade Organization cases filed by the U.S. over intellectual property, and there is growing outcry in Europe and the U.S. over the volume of counterfeit items from China.
Estimates of the amount that is stripped from the U.S. economy by pirated and counterfeit goods are as high as $250 billion annually. The concentration of so much manufacturing in a place with a lack of intellectual property protections, and which is now under intense scrutiny, is bound to have an impact, said Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University in New York.
"There is a kind of vortex circling around China and intellectual property," she said.
The Olympics puts China under a microscope, which could force a lot of issues to the surface and China is keenly aware of the scrutiny it will be under, experts said.
"China is about to be placed in the commercial spotlight of its history," said Mark Sommers, a trademark partner at the law firm of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner. "It is doing everything it can to assure the world that its taken the necessary steps and safeguards to make [the Olympics] a successful event, whether that's intellectual property rights or cleaning up the air."The Chinese vice premier wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal before the Strategic Economic Dialogue in which he said, "As a developing country in the process of accelerating industrialization and urbanization, China still has a long way to go before it can catch up with the U.S. in IPR generation, usage, protection and management. We hope that China and the U.S. can work more closely on intellectual property rights, duly recognize their disparities in capabilities and standards of IPR protection, and properly handle their differences and disputes."
In an effort to increase public awareness of these issues, Chinese officials created an anticounterfeiting DVD featuring actor Jackie Chan that could be shown on flights to Beijing this summer, said a U.S. government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Industry experts have said they see a modest trend toward improvement of China's piracy and counterfeit enforcement efforts, the official said.
The Olympics is China's "coming out party," said Caroline Joiner, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center. Joiner said holding the Olympics in Beijing could hasten reforms.
"We have often said that what's really going to turn the tide in China is when they're own skin is in the game, when local industries have intellectual property to protect," Joiner said.
For most experts, the true litmus test of intellectual property reforms in China will come after the Olympics hoopla fades.
"The key test is when the cameras are gone and the world's eye is no longer on China," Sommers said. "What will China do to follow up the show? How long will the afterglow last? That's anyone's guess."
The recent moves by the Chinese government are "a good first step," said Bob Barchiesi, president of the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition, but it's not enough yet to guarantee the security of companies' intellectual property.
"I think you'll continue to see gradual improvements [after the Olympics], but I don't think you'll see that landscape change as quickly as intellectual property owners would like it to because a lot of it is economically driven," Barchiesi said.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye