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Can China ever shed its shady IP reputation?

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:intellectual property? IP protection? start-up IPs? venture capital?

EE Times correspondent Junko Yoshida sits down with the founder of the Open Innovation Platform, a program which aims to eventually rid China of its tainted image in the realm of intellectual property (IP) rights. Dongmin Chen, former director of Harvard's Quantum Device Physics Lab and current dean at Peking University's School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, talks about why the initiative has far-reaching effects in China's technology sector.

China is big. China is not homogeneous. It has a poor record of protecting intellectual property. But it also has plenty of government funding at the central, provincial and municipal levels to go along with a massive domestic market for new technologies and products.

Add up the pluses and minuses and the Chinese market is a mixed bag.

So far, only a few Western companies and universities have managed to navigate China's IP minefield to form successful partnerships and grab market share. "China is complicated," Dongmin Chen noted during a recent interview with EE Times.

That's where Chen enters the picture.

Chen, who also directs the university's office of science and technology development, is the force behind new initiative called "Open Innovation Platform." The idea is to match up "Chinese [venture capital] that can't find projects" with "universities or start-up IPs [Western or Chinese] that can't find capital," explained Chen, a former serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur who also headed Harvard's Quantum Device Physics Lab for 15 years.

If successful, the initiative could have far-reaching implications for China's high-tech sector, where companies, universities and government agencies seeking more technology transfers from the West have been stymied by China's weak record on IP protection.

Chen is putting PKU's and his professional reputation on the line in confronting the IP issue. His goal is to use the open platform initiative to demonstrate China's commitment to IP rights.

During a recent forum in Beijing, Chen openly disagreed with an official of China's Ministry of Science and Technology who asserted that "borrowed, digested and reinvented innovation" based on foreign technologies is a legitimate option for China. Chen replied that such an option "is viewed as infringement of [IP rights] in other countries."

Chen knows IP protection is one of China's biggest shortcomings. The Open Innovation Platform specifically addressed that reality, and China hopes it will eventually encourage technology transfer to China based on international agreements.

The platform initiative has three goals: take risks on early stage start-ups; help foreign and domestic universities connect to Chinese investment; and fundamentally change the way Chinese start-ups are operated so that they can prosper.

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