Doctoral Researcher Yajie Zhao successfully defends thesis on Chinese Intellectual Property Law

On Friday 23 March 2018 Ms Yajie ZHAO, Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki, a member institution of the Finnish China Law Center, successfully defended her doctoral thesis China’s Intellectual Property System in the Process of Catch-up -with Patent in Focus.

Yajie Zhao (left) presenting her thesis on 23 March 2018 in the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki. Also pictured are Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law (middle) and Professor Li Mingde of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (right).

The opponent in Ms Zhao’s defence was Professor Li Mingde, a highly respected Chinese intellectual property law scholar based in Institute of Law and Intellectual Property Centre at the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

During her presentation, Ms Zhao discussed the evolution of Chinese intellectual property (IP) mechanisms as China progressed on its national development and transition to becoming a ‘well-developed country’. Ms Zhao approached her subject from the perspective of (IP), with a special focus on the People’s Republic of China since 1949.

Professor Li Mingde (left), Yajie Zhao (middle) and Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo (right).

Professor Li Mingde strongly recommended that Ms Zhao’s doctoral thesis be accepted. In his comments, he praised Ms Zhao’s thesis on its scope and originality. During a long discussion with Ms Zhao, Professor Li asked many probing questions not only about Ms Zhao’s thesis but more broadly about the current state of Chinese IP law, the challenges facing China’s IP system and the enforcement of IP rights, the roles of administrative and judicial IP right enforcement, and the prospects for its future development.

In her closing comments, Ms Zhao thanked those who have supported her during her thesis, including her thesis supervisor Professor Niklas Bruun (University of Helsinki / Hanken School of Economics).

Ms Zhao’s list of publications, lectures, other academic activities and full CV can be found on the website of University of Helsinki.

Professor Li Mingde (left), Yajie Zhao (middle) and Professor Niklas Bruun (right).

Thesis abstract

This thesis explores the evolution of Chinese IP mechanisms during national development and transition to becoming a well-developed country. This subject is studied from the perspective of intellectual property (IP), with a special focus on the People’s Republic of China since 1949.

Internationally, the Chinese State, as a late-developing country, has adopted various mechanisms to narrow its gap in income and in technological capability in relation to developed countries. Meanwhile, internally, China itself is going through a crucial stage of social transition, and switching its economic model from labour-intensive mode to high-tech and innovation-intensive mode. During China’s international ‘catch-up’ process, and its own social transition, the role of IP has constantly changed.

This research on China’s IP covers a period of the late Qing Dynasty until early June 2017, especially focusing on the period after 1949 and the modern Chinese IP system since its Reform and Opening-up Policy in 1979. The reviewed literature covers: (1) Chinese IP-related legislation and policies; (2) the domestic and international academic IP studies; (3) research reports from international organizations; (4) central reports from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, other reports and speeches from the central government with a historical period start from 1933; and (5) IP-related annual reports and statistics from the State Intellectual Property Office and the various levels of the people’s court.

This thesis combines the narrative approach of Chinese IP studies, law in context, and historical perspective, and specifically studies the question: ‘what is the IP system’s role in the catch-up process of China?’ The main research question is divided into sub questions: How does the development of the IP system and the national Science and Technology (S&T) integrate with each other (Chapter 2)? How is the IP system absorbed into Chinese society? The absorption of an IP system is explored via two aspects: one imperative aspect is the evolution of IP system from the perspective of enforcement (Chapter 3); and the other is how the IP system from the state level involved has impacted on the Chinese business players (Chapter 4). The manuscript concludes: Even though external pressures played an undeniable role during Chinese IP development, which can chase back to the 19th Century, China has been constantly advancing its IP system and its implementation mainly because of its internal and developmental needs since 1949 (Chapter 5).

The outcome of this thesis summarises the three decades of Chinese modern IP development and its enforcement in the following way: an advanced legislation system that goes along with the international standards, an enforcement system with Chinese characteristics, and an administrative system for registration and examination focusing mainly on the domestic industries yet taking international practices as reference. China’s adjustments of the IP policies are ultimately determined by the overall objectives for catching up and building an innovative country. China updates its IP system strictly in line with its level of national S&T development. Based on the internal and international conditions, it is a selected development model from China’s side to emphasize IP reform and modernization.

Cover of Doctoral Researcher Yajie Zhao’s published thesis.