Enhance the International Cooperation of Intellectual Property—An Interview with Raimund Lutz, Vice-President of the EPO

By Melody Ding, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

The rise of the European continent was based on the Industrial Revolution. Britain, France and Germany; the national prosperity of these traditional capitalist countries, all share a close connection with the Industrial Revolution. But in a sense, intellectual property (IP) protection was the catalyst which helped carry out the Industrial Revolution. Britain was the first capitalist country to introduce industry, whose development cannot be separated from its patent system. Without the patent system, Britain would not have launched the Industrial Revolution. Thus, intellectual property played a great part in improving the innovation in the European continent.
With the rapid development of a world economy, countries around the world have gradually increased their awareness of the value of intellectual property, which has become a measure of national innovation and development. In order to ensure the overall interests and economic development, in 1972 the European Union formally established European Patent Office (EPO), according to the European Patent Convention.
The EPO currently has 38 members and its expertise provides the basis for cooperative projects which the EPO carries out in a number of countries throughout the world. The cooperation with China is one of the longest-standing in its history, starting with a first contract in 1985 and culminating at present in the implementation of the EU-CN IPR2 project.
The first time this journalist met Raimund Lutz, the Vice-President of EPO, was during closing event of the IPR2 on July 15th, 2011. China IP interviewed Mr. Lutz to discuss the achievements of IPR2 over the past four years, the present situation and development of China IP and whether the IPR3 Project will forward or not.
China IP: Welcome to China, Mr. Lutz. Is this your first time to China after you have taken office? And what is your purpose of this journey?
Raimund Lutz: Yes, This is my first time to China since I have taken office. As the Vice-President of the EPO, my first mission is to continue extending the existing lines of international cooperation. The relation of China-EU has established while I was in my former position as President of the Federal Patent Court in Germany. The EPO contains a set of systematic and professional intellectual property relations. And I hope we can enhance the communication and cooperation between China and EU in the future.
China IP: Could you summarize the active role that IPR2 Project plays in China-EU communication on IP? What kind of specific measures and activities have been taken by IPR2?
Raimund Lutz: For China and Europe, IP is a very important area. The communication between China and Europe has been intact for 26 years. IPR2 is the technical tool that will allow China and Europe to practically address the real issues, concern on both sides and lead to effective IPR protection. In practical terms, the kind of open exchanges of experience and information can contribute to refining IP legislation and targeting policy. Furthermore, by making information available to a large base of users and by supporting a network of IP officials and experts, IPR2 actively contributes towards a better understanding and functioning of the IP system and a more effective environment for IP protection in the longer-term.
China IP: What kind of significant improvements has the IPR2 project achieved in the past three years?
Raimund Lutz: The achievements of this cooperation have been underlined by the recent Final Evaluation of the project. In this respect, I am pleased to note that the IPR2 project has reached new benchmarks in terms of partnership between all stakeholders and in the deliverables of the cooperation. The specific results are as follows: first, The Chinese legal framework of IPR laws and regulations is more predictable, transparent, coherent and in line with the WTO agreements. The technical capacity of institutions involved in IPR2 to handle IPR cases has been enhanced through systematic and extensive training measures. Second, civil enforcement has improved considerably in terms of speed, efficiency, costs and fair trials through increased awareness and improved knowledge of judges in IPR. Criminal enforcement has improved in terms of application, efficiency, costs and fair trials through increased awareness and improved knowledge of stakeholders involved as well as through improved interagency communication and the transfer of cases. Administrative enforcement has improved as well. Third, information tools have been created, with nationally and internationally available IPR related information and links to support the work of law and policy makers, IPR agencies and institutions, including customs and police, and the wider user community. IPR is better understood and used by both Chinese and European right holders as a strategic tool for business development. Last but not least, a sustainable network of Chinese and EU stakeholders reaching beyond the central level into the provinces and localities has been established, the EU industry is more involved.
To sum up, IPR2 has been very successful and the results have been shared by both sides.
China IP: Will the China-EU IPR3 project continue?
Raimund Lutz: We are all hoping for the future (laugh). The IPR2 project started four year ago and came to an end today. Each project has a beginning and an end, and then repeats. But how can we continue for the future? As for the future project issue, we are currently engaged in discussions. And I’m sure that we will find common issues and common interests or what areas we could work on for the next year.
China IP: What do you think of IP development in China?
Raimund Lutz: China has very good IP law. China and Europe Union have had a long-standing tradition of cooperation and China was very open to support the IPR2 Project.
The EU-China IPR Cooperation Programme was especially conceived in the 1990s to effectively support the development of IPR protection in the different territories.
With the presentation of the National IP Strategy in 2008, a reinforced effort has been made to shift the trade from “products made in China” to “technologies developed in China.”
Environmentally friendly technologies, vehicles, rail and aviation technologies, next generation IT, are a few of the technical areas specifically targeted in the National IP Strategy, which also sets targets for the growth of the related IP right of Chinese origin.
The results of this policy are already visible. In 2010, the European patent office recorded a total number of filings slightly above 235,000 patent applications. Out of these, almost 13,000 (12.698) filings came from China, representing an increase of 54% compared with the number of filings submitted in 2009 and an astounding 96% increase over 2008.
China IP: What do you think of the function of the intellectual property law in the area of international trade in the future?
Raimund Lutz: Since the launch of the EU-China cooperation in the format we currently know, in 1996, not only have the trade volumes involving China and its trade partners all over the world been expanding, but the nature of the trade has started to change as well.
The international commerce of material goods is progressively complemented by the trade in intellectual assets transformed into IP rights. Patents and trademarks, amongst other IP rights, are established as essential economic and trade tools of this century.
Consequently, while the international harmonization of IP protection remains a vision, we also see general support is growing for IP protection to adapt to the requirements of the global production and the global market, to extend outside national borders into the international arena.

Along these lines, the conception of international cooperation models on IP protection should also look at the future: national IP systems, which have been targeted until now, should leave more room to international harmonization and look at how IP protection is used in international trade.

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