China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiative – How does IP fit in?

24-May-2017

The ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, sometimes referred to as the ‘New Silk Road’, is a significant Chinese economic initiative which seeks to connect China, Central Asia and Europe in a modern incarnation of the classical camel-driven railroad of old.  Already, freight trains are running to and fro carrying a broad range of goods, including automobiles and specialised electronic goods, between port cities in Eastern China and Madrid, London and other European ports. This being so, IP owners – perhaps especially brand owners – may be wise to consider cost effective IP protection strategies to take advantage of the initiative.

The economics of the Silk Road rail route, though variable, compare favourably with maritime shipping costs and raise new issues for IP owners who need to consider their IP rights and the potential for these rights to be infringed if their goods travel the New Silk Road.  The following table summarises the IP situation.

Territory            Patents        Trade Marks          Designs 
                               
 China            Chinese Patent        Chinese Trade Mark Registration          Chinese Design Registration
                               
 Kazakhstan            Eurasian Patent        Kazakh Trade Mark Registration*          Kazakh Design Registration
                               
 Russian Federation            Russian Patent/Eurasian
 Patent
       Russian Trade Mark Registration*          Russian Design Registration
                               
 Belarus            Eurasian Patent        Belarus Trade Mark Registration*          Belarus Design Registration
                               
 Poland            European Patent        European Union Trade Mark
 Registration
         European Community Design
 Registration
                               
 Germany            European Patent        European Union Trade Mark
 Registration
         European Community Design
 Registration
                               
 France            European Patent        European Union Trade Mark
 Registration
         European Community Design
 Registration
                               
 Spain            European Patent        European Union Trade Mark
 Registration
         European Community Design
 Registration
                               
 UK            European Patent        European Union Trade Mark
 Registration
         European Community Design
 Registration
                               

* Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) or Common Economic Space (CES) registration would potentially be more cost effective.

As the table shows, patent protection is potentially cost effective with regional patent groupings, reducing the number of patent types required to three, which cover a vast territory.  Trade mark protection is not quite so simple, though a proposal for a Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) or Common Economic Space (CES) trade mark registration covering all EAEU territories is well advanced, the upshot being the further simplification of trade mark protection strategies in combination with the EU trade mark registration procedure.

The UK options, which are important given its location at one terminal of the OBOR system and the potential for improved free trade between China and the UK following Brexit, will be affected by Brexit in some way though transition provisions will likely be extended.

By Richard Baddeley
Contact Richard: r.baddeley@watermark.com.au