The IP Global Wars- The Asian Market

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The World War over IP heats up as the race to control IP in emerging markets accelerates.

Asian IP threats and opportunities high on the agenda for corporate Australia and New Zealand

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Corporates from Australia and New Zealand ignore IP issues in Asia’s developing countries at their peril, delegates to IPBC Australasia heard today. Speakers from both local and international companies made clear that it hardly matters whether rights owners transact any business in China, India or the emerging markets of Southeast Asia – a future-proofed IP strategy needs to include all fo the above as business ties between Australia, New Zealand and their Asian neighbours continue to grow.

Cochlear provides a good example of the trend. The company announced its intent to build a $50 million manufacturing facility in Chengdu, China last summer, marking its first plan to build its signature implants outside of Australia. Derek Minihane, the company’s vice president for sound processors and clinical care, has observed the major developments in the Chinese IP space over the last 15 years. He told delegates: “If you aren’t filing IP in China, you’re missing the boat. In 15 years you’ll have nothing to use there”. But for a company like Cochlear this is very old news. The company would not be moving to manufacture its most valuable inventions in China if it hadn’t spent a long time building up IP assets of all kinds in the country.

Invention patent protection was far from the only IP risk on the agenda today in Melbourne. New Zealand kiwifruit marketer Zespri has some patents but mainly relies on trademarks and plant variety rights to protect its business, said in-house counsel Ricky Hann. Hann said that China in particular poses tough choices. If the Zespri mark is used on something like a handbag in China, the IP decision makers need to make a call about how much it is going to affect kiwifruit sales or the company’s brand reputation.

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