29 April 2019

Intellectual property - a vital currency

The landmark decision by a Beijing-based court, ordering Jiangling Motors Corporation to stop selling it’s Landwind X7 in China as its design clearly infringed the copyright of Jaguar Land Rover’s Evoque SUV made me think about the very nature of intellectual property and how it is high in the news agenda when it is in dispute but not recognised as a powerful currency in its own right.

The Evoque/Landwind decision is the first ruling that has gone in favour of a foreign carmaker and was reached quite quickly by the almost glacial standards of Chinese legal decision - a mere three years.

The decision should be heartening to all parties working within and without China, as it shows that the rule of law there no longer simply exists to serve the one-party state and importantly makes China a good place for foreign companies to enforce their intellectual property rights.

Specialist IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen mean that the probability of winning a case in China are similar or even better than in Western countries - with a win rate of some 80%, and even higher for foreign firms than for Chinese companies.

Cases like JLR’s should make UK PLC focus more on the value of original design and technology; the British car industry will need to take heed of the discussions at the recent House of Commons summit, hosted by the Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN), whose aim was to encourage attendees to work together to develop policy and support education that will help British businesses harness the benefits of IP to support innovation, in order to stay competitive in a global marketplace.

This is particularly pertinent as we approach whatever the outcome of the Brexit debacle we are locked into.

It has been estimated that some 80% of a company’s value is in intangible assets such as IP, but many British companies are only learning about IP when it’s far too late or when it becomes a legal issue.

Another stark contrast with China is that there, and in many countries outside the UK, children of primary school age learn about business and the importance of intellectual property whereas, in the UK, IP features in very few if any university engineering and business curriculums.

IP will be at the heart of UK Automotive’s successful route into the industrial revolution we are seeing and while pessimists may talk of automotive as being a ‘sunset industry’, UK PLC must harness our ideas and use them to transform this country from being the world’s workshop to the world’s incubator and developer of great innovation.

Simon Duval Smith

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