How to Protect Trade Secrets in China: a Case Study

fgjMore and more European companies are considering bringing their cutting-edge technology to China, as the market offers many promising opportunities for European high tech companies. However, despite the fact that Chinese IP regime has improved a lot, IP infringements are still commonplace in China and, thus, European SMEs, wishing to successfully  do business in China, need to consider all the possibilities of how to protect their IP in China. Today’s blog post explores the often neglected, but a very useful  way of protecting IP in China – the trade secrets.

Nearly all businesses in all industries and sectors possess trade secrets. Trade secrets are a valuable and highly useful form of intellectual property that are nevertheless often undervalued and overlooked by their owners. This is not least the case in the service sector where the relative value of trade secrets as intangible assets can be extremely high. For example, a logistics firm may not hold any patents or few trade marks and substantial copyrights, but the value of its operations could heavily derive from information contained within client lists and standard procedures.

A considerable advantage for trade secrets is that unlike some other forms of IP rights, such as patents and copyrights that have a finite term, trade secrets can theoretically enjoy an infinite term of protection so long as the trade secret remains just that – a secret. The main difference between protecting something by patent or as a trade secret is that, while technical information is publicly disclosed in patents, it is kept away from the public eye in trade secrets. A trade secret can last forever as long as the confidentiality measures that protect it continue to work. An invention patent typically expires after 20 years.

On the other hand, legal protection of trade secrets is easily lost. Once the information becomes public information, it no longer enjoys any legal protection. As a result, prevention is the golden rule when it comes to protecting your trade secrets, because once your secret is out, there is usually very little that you can do about it. China, like most other countries, provides a legal framework for the protection for trade secrets, and the law provides for remedies in the event that your trade secrets are unlawfully disclosed. Continue reading “How to Protect Trade Secrets in China: a Case Study” »

Trade Fairs in Thailand: Steps to Protect your IP


icon 13 - TradefairsTrade fairs are an excellent place for European SMEs to introduce their products to South-East Asia and to find suitable business partners, buyers or distributors. With the arrival of the spring there are be many opportunities for European SMEs to participate at various trade fairs in South-East Asia and in Thailand in particular. SMEs planning to participate in trade fairs in Thailand should, however, keep in mind that trade fairs are also excellent places for malicious entities to find ideas to copy. Therefore, European SMEs should have the full knowledge of  how they could protect their business against infringements of their IP rights at trade fairs. Thus in today’s blog post we have chosen to discuss how companies could protect their IP when visiting trade fairs in Thailand. 

Trade fairs are now a well-established part of the business calendar in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok, with a number of high-tech industries represented, as well as areas of the creative sector such as furniture and design. Trade fairs provide foreign businesses with the opportunity to present their innovations and ideas to potential business partners and customers, and allow them to learn from and collaborate with other innovators. There is, however, a risk, in that disclosing your innovations to the public leaves you exposed to other copying and infringement of your IP.

Infringement of innovations may not necessarily be straightforward ‘counterfeiting’ – i.e. exact product, packaging and brand imitation. It is more likely that competitors could be using, intentionally or otherwise, a certain part of your product or innovation. It is therefore advisable to be as diligent as possible and to get to know competitors’ products well. Given this, a practical and realistic approach must be taken when preparing for and attending trade fairs in Thailand. IP owners must also be patient and pragmatic, as it is unlikely that immediate action can be taken against an infringer. There are, however, steps that IP owners can take before, during and after the event to best protect their IP. Continue reading “Trade Fairs in Thailand: Steps to Protect your IP” »

Protecting your IP while Transferring Technology to China

Manufacture4Since China’s market for clean technologies offers significant business opportunities for the European SMEs, then in this week, the EU Gateway Business Avenues took selected European companies to Beijing, China for a business mission in Clean Technologies. Many of these companies are considering bringing their technology to China, which however,  involves many IP risks. Therefore, in today’s blog post, we have chosen to discuss IP issues relating to technology transfer. The blog post offers some tips on how to safely bring your technology to China. 

Many European Companies are keen to come to China. While in the past, European companies came to China to take advantage of low-cost manufacturing for export, more recently, they have come to enter the Chinese domestic market, establish R&D, engage in cooperative development, take advantage of a skilled work force, establish suppliers, and develop long-term partnerships in China. In order to achieve this, they are often willing to ‘transfer’ their key technology and designs to Chinese subsidiaries of European firms, joint-venture (JV) partners, or Chinese manufacturing and service companies. One of the challenges facing European companies coming to China is devising creative solutions to minimize the risk to their intellectual property (IP) associated with such technology transfers.

A technology transfer happens in a number of different ways. European companies most commonly transfer their technology by licensing their patents, designs, software, trade secrets, and know-how. Ownership of the technology may be transferred, but this type of transfer is less common. A common misconception is that a technology transfer is limited to transfers of high technology. However, many European companies using contract manufacturing to manufacture low technology, consumer, or industrial products, for example based on product designs, must deal with many of the same risks to their IP as their high technology counterparts. Continue reading “Protecting your IP while Transferring Technology to China” »

IPR Protection in Indonesia for Contemporary Design Industry

shutterstock_385731427Since Indonesia’s design market and especially furniture design market offers interesting opportunities for European SMEs, 40 selected companies recently took part of the EU Gateway Business Avenues mission, where they met with local companies in Indonesia in early March 2017 to find business opportunities. As IP protection is the key to successful new business endeavors abroad, then in today’s blog post, we have chosen to discuss IP protection issues in the contemporary design industry in Indonesia. You will learn what you need to do in order to ensure that your product design is protected in Indonesia. 

Market Opportunities for European SMEs in Indonesia

Indonesia’s contemporary design industry holds great potential for European SMEs, supported by government’s initiatives of further developing the industry. Furniture sector is currently the backbone of Indonesia’s design industry as, boosted by high export demands, industrial production in Indonesia’s furniture industry has recorded high increase rate and profits gains over the past few years, a trend which will continue in 2017 and beyond, as Indonesia aims at becoming the dominant player in ASEAN’s furniture market[1].

Indonesia’s contemporary design market offers interesting business opportunities for European SMEs especially those engaged in the furniture and interior design sector, as the country can offer a competitive manufacturing base with relatively low labor costs and a wide availability of skilled carpenters and wood carvers. Furthermore, the country has vast resources of natural materials like teak, rattan or bamboo, attracting the attention of foreign investors.

The domestic market of Indonesia seems equally promising for imported European design products, especially products relating to interior design and home improvement as there is increasing demand for interior design services due to the booming domestic property sector, such as hotels, condotels, and restaurants. Moreover, the continued expansion of an affluent middle class in the country is driving the demand up for boutique producers of high-end contemporary furniture as well as niche sectors (i.e. leather furniture, European classic style pieces)[2]. Continue reading “IPR Protection in Indonesia for Contemporary Design Industry” »

How to Secure Effective Evidence at Trade Fairs in China

Page 1. 1.Protecting your IP at Trade FairsTrade fairs are a great place for European SMEs to introduce their products to China and to find suitable business partners. With the coming spring there will be many opportunities for European SMEs to participate at various trade fairs in China. SMEs planning to participate in trade fairs should however have the full knowledge of what to do if they happen to find infringing products at trade fairs, in order to be able to protect their business. Thus in today’s blog post we have chosen to discuss how to effectively secure evidence at trade fairs in China. 

For companies considering moving into international markets, trade fairs are a key channel to introduce their product to the new market, expand visibility and customer base and seek partners for manufacturing, distribution and retail.For many European SMEs, exhibiting at a major trade fair in China may be the first step towards internationalisation. However, as well as providing business opportunities, trade fairs also pose risks for exhibitors by exposing new products, technology, designs and brands to those who would copy the efforts of others for their own financial gain. In many ways a trade fair can be viewed as a supermarket for local counterfeiters looking for the next great product to copy or brand to appropriate, often to be sold at the same fair that the original product developer would like to exhibit.

Examples of typical infringements found at trade fairs include:

  • Displaying and selling counterfeit products bearing the trade mark(s) identical or similar to others’ registered trade mark(s);
  • Displaying and selling the products counterfeiting other’s patent rights;
  • Utilising others’ copyrighted images, texts in the advertisement and/or company brochure and/or product catalogue;
  • Copying others’ products’ design;
  • Copying the design of another’s exhibition booth.

Why is collecting evidence important?

Evidence is needed for IPR enforcement. No matter which enforcement action is best suited for the company, the European SME will need to prove that its IPR have been infringed by producing a significant volume of evidence. In China’s People’s Court the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff (claimant) and documentary evidence is far stronger than witness testimony. As well as proving ownership via IPR certificates SMEs must prove the infringement via physical evidence including contracts, photographs of infringing products and proof of sale which have been validated by a notary public (a public officer or other person who is authorised to authenticate documents, evidence etc). If SMEs wish to seek assistance from an administrative body (e.g. the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) for trade marks) they must provide a similar body of evidence for the case to be accepted. Continue reading “How to Secure Effective Evidence at Trade Fairs in China” »