With continued integration of the Chinese and US economies, companies with an eye on long-term survival cannot afford NOT to consider activity in or with China. However, there is also justified concern about safety of intellectual property (IP) regardless of official policies in place (or not) to provide protection.
In addition to constructing sound legal and technical frameworks to safeguard IP, it pays to create and follow an operational IP strategy with the following elements:
- Focused – on the human element – with the understanding that an organization’s people are its biggest asset as well as greatest source of potential IP leakage. Create a corporate culture of discipline and control around IP issues, as well as one that values and rewards employees and partners. Be clear on who you are hiring and working with. Due diligence is very important.
- Aligned – with the company’s key stakeholder interests. This includes employees, management, vendors, distributors, customers and local government authorities. If their interests are your interest there is greater likelihood of cooperation over conflict.
- Integrated – with the company’s overall China strategy, aimed at protecting the company’s core competency or highest “value add” component of the local business. Incorporate IP considerations at every operational level and into each functional area.
- Realistic – with the expectation that anything proprietary is valuable to others and will be acquired if possible. Focus on tools and methods for early detection of IP infringement. Understand that information is best shared on need-to-know basis.
Go in with the assumption that anything worth taking will be taken if you don’t actively prevent that from happening. Companies that don’t adequately protect these assets are seen as easy marks or “suckers”. Moral or ethic high ground will not preserve your assets. Vigilance and a comprehensive, well-considered IP protection strategy might.
Contact us at Blue Heron if you are interested in understanding and mitigating China business risks…..always happy to help!