Intellectual Property

Rift in Sino-US intellectual property dialogue blamed on WTO case

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On Monday, China prevented the World Trade Organization (WTO) from establishing an expert panel to arbitrate the intellectual property (IPR) case filed in April by the US. The case challenges China's market access restrictions on distribution of media like books, films, and music.

China's tactic will likely delay the case for a month or more, but will probably not stop the case from proceeding altogether. The WTO can still establish an expert panel if the US renews its request.

The delay is unfortunate because this WTO case appears to be souring ongoing communications between the two sides about IPR. At this past Wednesday's Sixth Annual US Ambassador's Roundtable on Intellectual Property Protection and Enforcement in China, which your correspondent attended, no Chinese government officials chose to participate. In years past, your correspondent has seen Madame Wu Yi and Bo Xilai give keynote addresses, and has watched multiple panels on which Chinese government officials from Customs and the State Intellectual Property Office have spoken.

The Ambassador's Roundtable has symbolized the open lines of communication and goodwill between the two sides on issues of IPR enforcement. The absence of Chinese government participation this year was therefore conspicuous.

Word on the street is that the apparent Chinese boycott of the event was because of the WTO case. Up until now, the WTO case hadn't seemed to impair other US-China cooperative efforts on IPR enforcment. If that situation is changing, it doesn't bode well for either side.

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