With China, Japan, and South Korea already among the three largest patent offices in the world—and nations like Singapore and India rapidly developing—a better understanding of IP systems in Asia has become crucial for U.S. lawyers and their international counterparts.
Berkeley Law’s Asia IP Project, part of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, is bridging the gap through a data-driven and collaborative approach. Founded in 2017, it brings together practitioners, officials, and researchers from both sides of the Pacific through events, research projects, and other engagement.
“The project is a natural fit for Berkeley—combining East Asian studies, law, technology, and IP—all strengths of the law faculty and the university,” says project leader Mark Cohen, a former senior counsel at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office who teaches the only comprehensive Chinese IP Law course in North America.
Despite the common political rhetoric, Cohen says, foreign companies can wage successful IP campaigns in China and actually have quite a high “win” rate. Injunctions are almost always granted there, and a typical lawsuit takes just six months or fewer. The cost of litigation is also far lower in China than in the U.S.
“China has ramped up its IP framework as the U.S. has scaled its back, with China more generously granting patents in areas such as software, pharmaceuticals, and business methods,” he explains. “Chinese trade secret law now allows for punitive damages of as much as five times the compensatory damages amount, and puts the burden of proof on defendants to establish that they haven’t stolen trade secrets. China is also a leader in inventions that support global standards for new technologies, such as 5G.”
The project’s reach is international, with events at Tsinghua Law School on transnational IP litigation, in Shenzhen on startup law, and conferences addressing technology and trade on Berkeley’s campus.
“Berkeley has an important part to play in broadening the dialogue about how best to engage with China and better defining the legal rules of that engagement,” Cohen says. “Our role couldn’t be more important at this time in our relations with Asia.”