US official says IPR infringement still main concern in China

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By Bernard Orr and Ethan Wang

BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director Kathi Vidal said on Tuesday that intellectual property rights (IPR) continue to be a main concern for U.S. businesses in China, and they face significant challenges with infringement.

"Whether it's insufficient deterrence for infringement, challenges to pharmaceutical related patents, or the misappropriation of trade secrets, intellectual property rights protection and enforcement remain a key issue of concern in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship," Vidal said at an event with attendees from the U.S. business community and legal fields in Beijing.

Vidal said the issue harms U.S. firms and workers, and that it is a concern not just held by U.S. companies, but by other nations as well.

She called recent policy shifts, including reduced transparency across the board, "troubling".

"What we've heard is that we need to create a fair, non discriminatory, and transparent IP environment for all."

In a recent blog post addressing the issue, Vidal said U.S. businesses operating in China regularly cite insufficient protection and enforcement of IP as a top concern, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has placed China on its "priority watch" list for over a decade, detailing a long list of IP concerns reported by U.S. businesses operating in China.

"We continue to work with our (Chinese) counterparts on higher penalties for infringement. We've seen that most recently and some of the laws that have been passed, but we heard today that although there is the availability of higher penalties, you're not seeing that play out in action yet," Vidal said.

On Monday, she met with Chinese Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang, where she said the United States attaches importance to the development of intellectual property cooperation with China, and is willing to strengthen dialogue, according to Chinese state media.

Ding said China wants to expand practical cooperation with the United States on intellectual property rights, address each other's concerns, and foster a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment.

(Reporting by Bernard Orr and Ethan Wang; Additonal reporting by Xiaoyu Yin; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)