The EU-China Project on the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR2) was launched in 2007 by the European Commission and the Government of People’s Republic of China. The objective of the project is to improve the effectiveness of intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement in China.
The provision of technical assistance and cooperation with the Chinese legislative, judicial, administrative and enforcement institutions promoting the environment of IP protection in China, will enhance innovation and promote investment and economic development. The further adaptation of the Chinese IP system to international standards will foster trade in technology and innovative products and services. It will create benefits for both Chinese consumers and right holders.
IPR2 also demonstrates China's strong determination to support and foster international cooperation in the field of IP. It is part of a broader national IP strategy, which in addition to strengthening the enforcement system includes other important elements such as raising the awareness of the public and education on the importance of intellectual property for China. Since China joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001, much progress has been made in meeting its accession commitments – namely liberalising trade in a range of sectors, adapting laws and lowering tariffs, improving EU access to the Chinese market.
The positive impact on the EU-China trade relationship is obvious: Since 1978, EU-China trade has increased more than 60-fold and reached approximately €254 billion in 2006 (ref. Eurostat 2007). At this time, China held place as the EU’s 2nd largest trading partner and displaced the United States as the largest source of EU imports. China considers the EU to be its 1st trading partner (ahead of both the US and Japan). Chinese imports to the EU totalled approximately €191 billion during that year, representing a year-on-year increase of almost 21%. Likewise, EU exports to China increased by 22.5% to approximately €63 billion, accounting for overall bilateral trade of upwards of €254 billion.
Both sides continue to have much to gain by deepening their commercial ties. On the European side, attention is being given to the use of non-tariff barriers (NTB) that restrict further economic closeness. Predominantly, in the area of protection of IPRs, where lack of adequate enforcement has European industry seriously concerned, and where IP infringements are expected to cause loss of potential revenue greater than any other single NTB (ref. Future Opportunities and Challenges in EU-China and Investment Relations 2006-2010, European Commission, Directorate-General for Trade). IPR2 aims to address these concerns, and at the same time, improve the environment for Chinese operators.
Having amended its legal framework comprehensively since the 1980s, becoming a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and signing the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and the other major conventions on the protection of IPRs, China is moving to step-up IP protection through efficient and effective enforcement. Since 2004, the EU-China IP dialogue (complemented later on by IPR Working Groups) supports a regular exchange of views on the European and Chinese IP systems and progresses priority topics. This is supported by European contributions to technical assistance in the field of IPR in China. IPR2 builds upon IPR1 (1999-2004) which provided support to China's legislative, judicial and administrative reform. More recently, technical support continued in the framework of the EU-China Trade Project, the EU's largest Trade Related Technical Assistance project.
The special role of the IPR2 Project therefore emerges against this backdrop. Persisting, on a practical level, with an exchange of information, best practices and know-how; intensifying cooperation between a network of authorities, Chinese and European right holders and other stakeholders; and working to enhance confidence in the future of the EU-China trade relationship through more effective enforcement of IPR.