Intellectual Property in China Prior to WTO Accession

China’s WTO entry in December 2001 and consequent obligation to comply with the TRIPS Agreement had a significant impact on the IP system in China and, to appreciate this full impact, it is necessary to first understand the development of intellectual property protection from imperial China until the reform era. The development of intellectual property protection in China can be divided into four stages: firstly, the initial steps towards IP protection taken in the final years of the Qing Dynasty under pressure from Western powers; secondly, the early IP laws enacted by the Guomindang (Nationalist party) government in the period from 1912 to the 1940s to try to modernise the law; next, the preliminary Communist reforms during the early years of the PRC; and finally, the extensive period of law reform which has taken place since the reform and opening-up period began in the late 1970s. These four stages of development will be outlined below in order to place the significance of China’s accession to the TRIPS regime in context.

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