Intellectual Property Protection – from Europe to China

Author: Dr Jacekas Antulis, an Associate Partner, the Head of the Patent Division at METIDA 

Image courtesy by Inky Bob_flickr.comAbout 10 years ago the majority of patent applications filed to the largest patent offices, such as SIPO (Chinese patent office) or the USPTO (US Patent Office) were not extended to other countries (outside of patent powers). Europe, China and Russia seemed far away to the Americans, in addition, Americans tend to do business in their own country. Intellectual Property Protection in fact appeared only 30 years ago in China and initially evolved slowly. Moreover, China is a big market and it tried to commercialise their inventions only in their own country for a long time. The commercialisation of inventions in Europe has been slow and difficult, because each EPC country, and there are now as many as 38, calls for attention and appropriate commercial adaptation.

These days, especially after the global economic crisis, the situation has begun to change. The attitude to intellectual property and its importance has shifted. On the one hand, technology has started rapidly evolve, on the other hand, the market has begun to break from the abundance and supply of goods. People realised that the commercial viability depends on the competitiveness (technology optimisation), exclusivity (‘overfed’ customer, constantly pumped and suffocated with promotions, wants something special) and ‘happy’ partnership (the ticket to other horizons). In the context of such terms the client reminds of a lazy bird fed with promises and possibilities which is carried on advertising wings in different directions without a steady purpose, and the vendor – a sniper trying to shoot the bird in the distance, reminiscent of the mirage on the horizon.

Product’s exclusivity is directly tied to the company’s innovations and brand, thus the cornerstone of the commercial success is a versatile protection of intellectual property: inventions, designs, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, etc. must be protected.

From the patenting perspective, Americans’ style has not changed much in the last 5 years, although some steps towards Europe and Asia are felt. In addition, the US practically does not encourage local companies trying to protect their intellectual property in other countries. Patenting in Europe compared to the United States is developing faster because of various funding programs and development projects. In China the situation has significantly changed: on the one hand, advanced technology is rapidly developing in China, on the other, Chinese themselves began to produce value added goods and aspire to sell them to foreign countries – not only in the US, but also in Europe and Russia. Over the last 5 years, China’s role has significantly changed. Also, the Chinese government extensively (financially and morally) supports the development of their country abroad, especially in terms of intellectual property. Over the last 3 years the number of patent applications in China increased by almost 30% per year. Moreover, the number of applications to Russia is increasing, however most of the Chinese companies are not aware that they have a unique opportunity to file Eurasian applications (which include Russia and other EAPC countries) with a 80% discount from the official fees:

We can file Eurasian applications directly through our branch in Belarus. More information on the Eurasian applications and procedures can be found here:

Even though the legal system is orderly enough and regulated, piracy in Eurasian region is a common problem. Therefore, it is very important to protect your intellectual property when working in the Eurasian region (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan).

Russia and other EAPC countries are two times bigger than China in terms of space. And while the number of people in comparison to China is not so large (only about 200 million), it is approximately three times larger than in the United Kingdom or Germany.

On the 1st  of January in 2010 Russia signed a special contract with Belarus and Kazakhstan regarding a free economic zone, i.e. there are no customs among the three countries. This means that if a product is protected by a patent only in Russia but not in Belarus or Kazakhstan, black market’s activities from Belarus and Kazakhstan are possible, which are hard to control without additional protection. The only way out of the situation is to protect the goods with patents not only in Russia but also Kazakhstan and Belarus. However, the patenting in Belarus and Kazakhstan brings additional costs. In order to avoid them, one can file Eurasian application, which encompasses eight countries, including Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. This is a very effective mean of which more information can be found here:

Also, one should not forget that Belarus and Kazakhstan are quite large countries that can provide you not only protection but also an extra source of income. Belarusia’s area is larger than the United Kingdom’s area, and Kazakhstan is even more than two times bigger than Germany, France and the United Kingdom combined.

The following are brief characteristics and comments on each of the EAPC countries. This brief review will provide initial information about inventions of certain natures that are useful to commercialise in different Eurasian countries/markets.

Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of area, which runs from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Russia borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea.

The main export commodities: oil, natural gas, iron ore and other metals, wood, coal, steel, machinery. The main export countries are Germany, Russia, China, Ukraine, Italy, USA and France. In 2004 the export volume (183.2 billion USD) was twice the volume of imports (94.8 billion USD). Oil, gas, metal ores and timber account for 80% of export, therefore Russia is highly dependent on the price fluctuations of global resources (The World Factbook 2005).

In the Russian Federation agriculture is predominantly in plains of Russia, which stretch from the western border to central Asia. Farmers grow wheat and other crops, beef cattle, a number of dairy products, cotton and wool are also produced. The Russian Federation is one of the world’s largest grain producers, however often it does not provide enough food to feed its own population and has to import grain.

Over the past 20 years the Russian economic development pace has slowed gradually increasing a lag forcing it to fall behind other developed countries. Russia imports a lot of electronics, because Russian analogues are often not competitive.

Kazakhstan is the largest and richest country in Central Asia. It has borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the Caspian Sea. Natural resources: oil, gas, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, bauxite, gold, uranium. Main agriculture: grain, potatoes, vegetables, melons and animals. Industry: coal, iron ore, manganese, chromite, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, bauxite, gold, silver, phosphates, uranium, sulfur, iron and steel, tractors, and other agriculture machinery, electric motors, construction tools. The country imports mechanical equipment, metal products, food. Import partners: Russia, China, Ukraine, Germany, USA. By 2030 it strives to become a ‘green’ economy country. Kazakhstan dedicates a lot of attention to intellectual property protection, however this country is still full of infringements in this area.

Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe. Borders with Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Poland and Ukraine. On the 25th of August in 1991 it declared independence from the Soviet Union, however it remained the closest state to Russia compared to other former Soviet Union countries. On the 8th of December in 1999 the country created a bilateral alliance with Russia on greater political and economic integration. Belarus’s economy is strongly linked with the Russian and Kazakh economies. After the establishment of a common customs union the connection will only increase. Main crops: grains, potatoes, vegetables, sugar cane, flax, beef, milk. The main production areas: metal cutting tools, tractors, trucks, earth mover machines, motorcycles, televisions, fertilisers, synthetic fabrics, textiles, radios, refrigerators. It imports mineral products, machinery and equipment, chemicals, nutrients, metals. The main import partners: Russia, Germany, China, Ukraine. Natural resources: wood, peat, oil, gas, dolomite, chalk, sand, clay, marl, gravel. Although this country is significantly improving the protection of intellectual property and the legal regulations, violations and piracy are still common.

Armenia is a country in Southwest Asia between Turkey and Azerbaijan. It borders with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Turkey. It is also the first nation that officially adopted Christianity. For a long time it used to be included in different empires: Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian, Ottoman. In 1920 Armenia became a Soviet republic. It regained its independence on 21st of September in 1991 and it is currently a presidential republic with a civil law system. The area is 29,743 square kilometers. Population is 2,974,184 which annually increases up to 0.14% . Population: Armenians, Kurds, Russians. The official language is Armenian. The predominant religion is Christianity. GDP – 18.95 billion US dollars and 5600 dollars for 1 person. Natural resources: gold, copper, molybdenum, zinc, bauxite. Agriculture: fruits, vegetables, animals. Industry: diamond processing, engines, metal cutting machines, tires, skirts, socks, shoes, silk, chemicals, jewellery, computer software development, food processing, mining. Import: gas, gasoline, tobacco products, nutrients, diamonds. Import partners: China, Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Germany, Italy, Turkey. Natural disasters: earthquakes, drought. Environmental issues: soil pollution with pesticides, desertification, updated nuclear power plant operations despite the fact that it stands in a an active seismological zone.

Azerbaijan is a country in Caucasus region. Bordered by Russia, Armenia, Iran, Georgia, the Caspian Sea. Since 1936 it was part of the Soviet Union. The country received its independence on the 30th of August in 1991. It is currently a presidential republic with civil law system. There is also a persistent conflict with Armenia regarding Nagorno – Karaba area.

Area: 86,600 square kilometers. Population: 9,590,159 with an annual increase of 1.01%. Population: Azerbaijanis, Lezghin, Russians, Armenians. Official language: Azerbaijani. The predominant religion is Islam. GDP (2012 data) 98.6 billion US dollars and 10,700 dollars per 1 person. A significant level of corruption. Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, non-ferrous metals, bauxite. Agriculture: cotton, grain, rice, grapes, fruits, vegetables, tea, tobacco, livestock cattle, pigs, sheep, goats. Industry: oil and natural gas, petroleum products, oilfield equipment, steel, iron ore, cement, chemicals and textiles. Import: mechanical equipment, petroleum products, nutrients, metals, chemicals. Import partners: Turkey, Russia, China, Germany, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Italy. Natural disasters: drought. Asperono Peninsula and the Caspian Sea are recognized as the most ecologically devastated area in the world, featuring the air, soil and water pollution. Soil pollution is caused by oil and gasoline spills, pesticides, toxic substances used in cotton processing.

Kyrgyzstan is a country in Central Asia. Borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China. It is a presidential republic. In 1876 it was annexed by the Russian Empire. In 1936 Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic. On the 31st of August in 1991 the country retrieved its independence. Currently there is a civil law system. It is strongly influenced by the French legal system and the laws of the Russian Federation. Area: 199,951 square kilometers. Population: 5,548,042 with an annual increase of 0.97% . Population: Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians and Ukrainians. Official languages: Kyrgyz and Russian. The predominant religion is Islam. GDP (2012 data): 13,47 billion US dollars with 2,400 US dollars per 1 person. Natural resources: hydropower, gold, rare-earth minerals, coal, oil, natural gas, mercury, nepheline, bismuth, lead and zinc. Agriculture: tobacco, cotton, potatoes, grapes, fruits and berries, sheep, goats, cattle, wool. Industry: machine parts, textiles, food processing, cement, shoes, cutting log saws, refrigerators, furniture, motors, gold, rare-earth minerals. Import: oil and gas, fittings and equipment, chemicals, nutrients. Import partners: China, Russia, Kazakhstan. Natural disasters: none. Large water pollution and soil salinity due to inappropriate farming.

Tajikistan is a country in Central Asia. It is a presidential republic with civil law system which declared its independence on the 9th of September in 1991. Tajikistan shares borders with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China. Area: 143,100 square kilometers. 90% of the territory is covered by mountains and everything else is arable land. Population: 7,910,041 with the annual population growth rate of 1.79%. Population groups: Tajiks, Uzbeks, Russians, Kyrgyz. The official languages: Tajik, but Russian is also widely used in daily life and in official institutions. The predominant religion is Islam. GDP (2012 data) 17.72 billion US dollars and 2,200 US dollars per 1 person. In 1924 the country became part of the Soviet Union until 1991. From 1992 until 1997 the civil war took place. Natural resources: hydropower, oil, uranium, mercury, coal, lead, zinc, antimony, tungsten, silver, gold. Agriculture: cotton, grain, fruits, grapes, vegetables, livestock cattle, sheep, goats. Industrial production: aluminum, cement, vegetable oil.

Tajikistan imports: petroleum products, aluminum oxide, machinery and equipment, nutrients. Import partners: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, USA. Tajikistan is a founder and an active member of a Eurasian Group on money laundering and terrorist financing. It is looking for investors in the construction of roads and energy sector development. Environmental problems: the lack of sanitary deployment, increasing soil contamination, industrial pollution, high levels of pesticide use. Natural disasters: earthquakes, floods.

Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia next to the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Kazakhstan. It has borders with Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan. Population number 5,113,040 with an annual population growth rate of about 1.6%. GDP (data from 2012) – 47.55 billion US dollars and 8,500 dollars per 1 person. Even though the country is officially acknowledged as a presidential republic, the authoritarian governance is very noticeable. During different periods of time Turkmenistan belonged to several empires: ancient Persia, Macedonia, Mongolia and etc. Therefore it is rich in cultural residues. Since 1885 the country had been annexed by the Russian Empire and from 1924 it became a part of the Soviet Union. It regained its independence on the 27th of October in 1991 and became an independent country.

Official language is Turkmen, however Russian and Uzbek are also spoken. Major religions: Islam, Russian Orthodox. Taxes constitute 21% of the monthly income. 80% of the territory is covered by desert. The main problems that may arise in the future are related to water and its distribution. Due to climate change in the future Turkmenistan will increasingly become hotter and drier. The same trend is observed in all of Central Asia. It is an agricultural country. Agriculture economy accounts for 8% of GDP, however it holds only half of the employees of all working people. Main crops: cotton and wheat. Natural resources: oil, gas salt. It imports machinery and other mechanical equipment, chemicals, nutrients. The biggest import partners: Turkey, Russia, China, United Arab Emirates, Germany. In 2013 World economies ranking Turkmenistan took 169th place. In Asia – Pacific region it is 39th country out of 41 countries. Even though the country is a signatory to all the major treaties regarding intellectual property protection, online piracy and the copying of intellectual property protected objects is a very common phenomenon. The infringement in trade marks area is the most common. Foreign investments are strictly supervised and controlled by the government and because of this reason there are only few foreign-funded enterprises in Turkmenistan. Another big problem that we face is corruption. Turkmenistan’s legal system: civil law with a number of features of Islamic law.

More information about patenting in Eurasia through our branch in Belarus:

For more information on patenting in Europe click on the link below to our central office in Lithuania:

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