Written By: Gillian Kassner
Edited By: Matt Gelfand
In a 2009 Los Angeles Times article, “Beijing Loves IKEA – But Not for Shopping,” reporter David Pierson offered a humorous account of the weekend excursions of Beijing families to their local IKEA where they enjoyed free soda and Swedish meatballs, snapped family photographs, surveyed the merchandise, and went home. Pierson noted that purchasing anything at the Beijing IKEA “can seem like an afterthought.” What Pierson failed to include was an epilogue: chances are most of these Chinese consumers would later purchase knockoff IKEA furniture online or at a local store.
A combination of cultural and economic factors underlies the current attitude of the Chinese towards the protection of intellectual property. As China has propelled itself onto the global stage by its fast-paced economic growth, external pressures from the United States and other nations and internal tensions between traditional Chinese values and the desire for economic prosperity have earmarked intellectual property as a key issue that will determine China’s economic and political trajectory. The Chinese Communist Party’s recent focus on IP protection signals that while China may continue to condone certain levels of infringement in the interim, in the long term, China’s continued economic growth and the survival of the CCP will require the serious reform of China’s IP enforcement. To be effective rather than cursory, it is evident from China’s history and political structure that such reform must be the natural product of China’s internal weighing of incentives rather than a response to external pressures. (more…)