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China’s threat to US intellectual property

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The director of the FBI complained last year that China is engaged in intellectual property “theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.” As part of the 2020 U.S.-China trade deal, Beijing promised reforms that would better protect the IP of U.S. corporations, but the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is already signaling that those reforms have not gone far enough.

Testifying to Congress last month, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines noted that the U.S. will need to “focus on the competition in critical technical areas such as high-performance computing, microelectronics, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, fiber optics and metamaterials.” These are dual-use technologies with both military and civilian applications — making them ripe targets for state-sponsored espionage as well as corporate IP theft.

This National Press Foundation briefing will help journalists understand the Biden administration’s challenge in protecting intellectual property, and the implications for global trade, national security, patents and profits. We’ll hear from experts — including Andrei Iancu, the former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — about efforts to secure the secrets of corporations and protect their markets from cheap fakes. We’ll also hear from Elaine T.L. Wu, director for China IP issues at the Patent and Trademark Office, about how Chinese IP law has changed in recent years.

We’ll also examine whether the situation as dire as Wray and others have painted. Have U.S. reporters been too quick to relay cases of misappropriation of U.S. intellectual property — and too slow to report on the victories that U.S. companies have won in courts on their IP challenges? That’s the concern of Mark Cohen of the University of California, Berkeley, who says the Chinese IP threat has been misconstrued.