Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition
- Winner in 2017 -
Winner of Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition in 2017
Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition
Ms TO Yee-man Yvette
Department of Asian and International Studies
The Politics of Intellectual Property Transition in China
Mission Statement:
Critical thinking is key to uncovering underlying causes of events

China is widely known as the ‘kingdom for pirates’ where a broad range of counterfeit and knockoff products are made, sold and exported. Yet, since opening up to the world in 1978, China has adopted vigorous reforms to establish rules and institutions in an attempt to promote, exploit and protect intellectual property rights. The overarching aim is to enhance national competitiveness to sustain growth.

Yvette’s research examines those actors who are involved in constructing China’s intellectual property institutions and the evolving roles they play in the process. In addition, she addresses what forces and drivers lie behind the ambitious project of turning China into an innovative economy and a technology powerhouse.

‘Innovation’ as a catchword for driving progress has been widely used in various settings including business, education and national development. Enhanced innovative capacity of a society is said to be conducive to productivity, competitiveness and a nation’s economic growth. Intellectual property (IP) rights (patent, trademark and copyright) and their strong protection then become paramount as they reward innovative effort and provide legal safeguards against illegitimate use of IP.

This is why late developers (those developing economies which are trying to catch up with the more advanced players), one followingly the other, unquestionably incorporate innovation promotion and strengthened IP protection in their national strategies and economic development plans.
In fact, exercising and defending IP rights can be complicated in the contemporary era. IP rights are essentially national rights, which means that they are primarily defined, interpreted and protected by specific national jurisdictions. However, in the age of economic globalisation, products ‘travel’ around the world. Varying standards and levels of protection of IP across jurisdictions may become problematic. So, who decides what kind of national and global IP standards are to be adopted?

Through the lens of China’s transition to an innovation-driven economy, Yvette’s research focuses on how and why late developers treat innovation and IP as one of the key solutions to their developmental challenges. As these economies play catch-up in GDP, market share and technology, they are constrained by global competitive forces and pressured by different demands from key interests at home. The results are the emergence and establishment of institutions, ranging from government bureaux, laws, government-affiliated institutes and the judiciary; as well as rules that govern how creative and new ideas are to be utilised and protected. Moreover, these institutions are purposely constructed to satisfy the profit-seeking appetite of the capitalist class which is becoming increasingly mobile and transnational.

Yvette’s study of China’s IP transition will contribute to deeper understanding of China’s development trajectory and the application of institutional theory in political science.

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