I’ve been tipped off by the IAM Blog to these interesting statistics released by the Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China.
- 30,626 civil cases related to IPR at first instance were received by the China national court system in 2009, up 25.49%
- Of the 2009 IP cases counted, 4,422 involved patent infringement, 6,906 involved trademarks, 15,302 involved copyrights, 747 involved technical contracts, and 1,282 involved unfair competition
While a direct comparison to U.S. IP cases is not available (I’m not aware of any such released statistics), the IAM Blog reports that PWC released a report that, in 2008, 2,896 patent infringement cases were filed in U.S. courts.
An interesting comment to the IAM post was made by Michael Martin which asserts that, while these numbers are quite interesting (but not surprising), the best indicator of an effective IP system and IP value, rather than the number of IP cases filed, is “the cash being paid to patent owners for use of patented products and processes.” I tend to agree.
While I personally don’t have any basis for this fact, the IAM blog reports that “the vast majority of IP disputes in China are between Chinese companies and involve very small sums of money.” If this is so, then the number of IP cases litigated don’t tell us much about the quality of Chinese patents or the effectiveness of its IP legal regime. After all, the quality of IP increases as the level of protection readily afforded to that IP increases. And of course, as the quality of IP increases (measured by the monopoly power deployed, and therefore the competitive advantage it creates), the value of that IP increases. If the “vast majority” of this large number of IP cases in China are returning multi-million-dollar verdicts, or if licenses in China are being granted for great sums of money, then we will know that China’s IP legal regime has reached its potential.
(Pictured here is the underground “refrigerator” at the famous Concha Y Toro vineyard and winery in Santiago, Chile, where I visited with my family in December. The seemingly unending row of barrels could represent the seemingly unending amount of IP cases the future holds for China . . .)