Chinese enterprises have paid more than US$1 billion in compensation to their foreign counterparts because of disputes over intellectual property rights (IPR) since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua said yesterday in Beijing.
These disputes mainly occurred industrial sectors as films, coloured TV, motorcycles, digital cameras, MP3 chips, autos and telecommunication equipment, according to Xu.
"The frequent occurrence of IPR disputes with foreign companies has had a serious impact on China's industrial development," said Xu, noting that the influence is sometimes "destructive" for certain sectors.
Xu made the remarks while reporting the status of the country's scientific and technological innovation work and IPR protection to members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
Xu blamed Chinese enterprises' lack of awareness of IPR protection and weak ability in managing IPR issues for their problems.
Foreign companies own the majority of patents in the technology used or produced by Chinese enterprises, he said.
For example, in the wireless transmission and mobile telecommunication sectors, foreign firms own 93 per cent and 91 per cent of invention patents respectively.
He said China has made progress in setting up a legal system for IPR disputes. For example, laws have already been promulgated on patents, trademarks, copyright and unfair competition.
However, the country so far does not have a law dealing with enterprises that take advantage of IPR to seek a market monopoly, he noted.
Xu said that China has drafted a series of policies to support the development of IPR, which is seen as an important part of the nation's innovation drive.
Enterprises, scientific research institutes and universities are encouraged to form alliances in developing IPR so as to bring their advantages into full play, Xu said, adding that China has made efforts to improve the social environment for IPR protection.
From September 2004 to the end of last year, the country handled 22,000 violations of trademarks and destroyed 33 illegal CD production lines.
Education in rural areas
In another development, Minister of Education Zhou Ji yesterday promised to pour more investment into rural education.
In 2004, a budgetary investment of 132.6 billion yuan (US$16.1 billion) was made in rural education.
From 2006-10, an additional 218.2 billion yuan (US$26.9 billion) from governments at all levels will be invested in improving school conditions in rural areas, according to Zhou.
He said this in a report to NPC Standing Committee members.
More than 148 million students in rural areas are expected to benefit from the investment.
These students, who should undertake a nine-year compulsory education according to law, will be exempted from tuition fees, according to Zhou.
Children of migrant workers will receive better care in public schools in cities, he noted.
The number of school age children of migrant workers in China was estimated at 6.4 million in 2004, according to official statistics.