Name: Qiaoling He
Email address: qiaoling.he [at] mail.mcgill.ca
Title of dissertation: The use and non-use of Intellectual Property Rights in China
Funded by an IDRC Doctoral Research Award I conducted fieldwork on the use and, in interesting respects non-use, of intellectual property rights in China. Many writers on development argue that, with industrial catching-up, firms in developing countries will increasingly seek protection against infringers under local intellectual property (IP) laws. This will lead them to push for the improvement of stronger legal protections for IP. My research suggests a more complicated process in China. Many Chinese firms have large amounts of IP but do not make much use of it. Nor do they lobby for better IP protection.
My research suggests explanations both for Chinese firms’ acquisition of IP when they do not enforce it and for their failure to enforce the IP that they acquire through law. With respect to the first question, many firms acquire IP for purposes other than the enforcement of property rights - such as attracting investment and media attention. With respect to the second question, many firms have ways of protecting their IP without resorting to court enforcement. Informed by the literature on the sociologies of law, development, and organization, I examine the range of ways IP is used in three industries – health care products, telecommunications equipment, and television and film production and distribution – and I show how the broader institutional context of different industries shapes approaches to IP.