China’s rapid development in the areas of technological innovation and intellectual property rights should be promising rather than frightening trends for American businesses, according to two speakers at a seminar on doing business in China hosted by the American Electronics Association’s Southeast Council.

Since free-market reforms began in China more than 20 years ago, the country has moved from an immature economy that focuses on big brand names to a smart economy that taps companies with specialized skills, even if they are smaller and lesser known, Greg Shea, president of the United States Information Technology Office in Beijing, told GlobalAtlanta.

Such a shift could help put Georgia’s small- to medium-size tech enterprises in a position to participate in China’s innovation technology markets, he said.

“I would tell (Georgia companies) not to be at all discouraged because the wave is in your favor if you choose to accept it,” Mr. Shea said in an interview after his presentation, which focused on China’s recent innovations and what they mean for the global economy.

Technology exports accounted for much of China’s breakneck growth over the past 20 to 30 years, and whether this trend will continue at its current pace depends on whether its government can create a business environment that encourages both foreign investment and “indigenous innovation,” Mr. Shea said at the event, held at the University of Georgia’s Atlanta Alumni Association office in Buckhead.

Mr. Shea, who has lived in China for 10 years, said that technology has made it possible for the Chinese take full advantage of reforms instituted by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.

“Most of what you see in China is only 15 years old, and the development was powered by trade in general and in particular, the technology sector,” he said.

The country’s quick turnaround from a closed, restrictive nation to an economic superpower still amazes him, although he noted that there is a lot of work to be done in the still-developing country.
“It’s very exciting to be in China because I feel like I’m halfway through a renaissance movie,” Mr. Shea told the audience at the alumni office.

Tim Xia, the seminar’s second speaker, experienced the very outset of China’s economic resurgence firsthand.

Mr. Xia was graduated from Peking University in the early 70s, in the first class when colleges reopened after 10 years of mandatory closings during Mao Ze Dong’s Cultural Revolution.

Now an attorney with law firm Morris, Manning & Martin LLP, which co-sponsored the event, Mr. Xia specializes in helping companies in the U.S. and China protect their intellectual property rights.

Three years ago, Morris, Manning had no Chinese clients wanting to protect intellectual property in the U.S., but the law firm has seen that change.

Chinese companies want to “globalize in the same way” that Atlanta companies like Coca-Cola Co. and United Parcel Service Inc. have done, Mr. Xia said. So they “are paying big money to protect their intellectual property rights in the U.S.,” Mr. Xia told GlobalAtlanta.

With Mr. Xia heading the litigation, Morris, Manning recently won an intellectual property lawsuit for General Protecht Group Inc., a China-based company that is set to build a electrical component factory in Barnesville.

China’s legislature established trademark, patent and copyright law in 1982, 1985 and 1991, respectively, Mr. Xia said in his presentation.

The country’s patent law has undergone four amendments, and Mr. Xia believes that it is just as strong or stronger than its U.S. counterpart.

China’s patent office overtook the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2005 for most patent applications filed, and from 2005 to 2006, foreign patent applications filed in China increased about 100 percent, while foreign applications in America only rose 13 percent over the same period, according to Mr. Xia’s statistics, many of which came from China’s State Intellectual Property Office.

Despite increased domestic innovation in China, protecting trade secrets and intellectual property is still a viable concern in a Confucian society where imitation is a form of respect.

Mr. Shea called this an “explanation, not an excuse,” and he and Mr. Xia agreed that China’s zeal to advance should not infringe on U.S. rights.

“It’s like when you go to university,” Mr. Xia said. “You can learn from the professors, but you have to pay your tuition.”
Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
USITO – Greg Shea, president [ president’s blog ]

Morris, Manning & Martin LLP – Tim Xia, attorney 404-495-3678