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China to Reduce Patent Review Time Amid Ongoing Opening of Economy

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A Chinese national flag flutters in the wind in between a high-rise residential and office complex in Beijing, China. (File) - Sputnik International
China is touting another round of reforms aimed at improving its patenting process in a bid to reassure foreign investors, improve intellectual property protections, and convince US officials to enter a bilateral free trade deal amid ongoing talks.

Kristian Rouz — The Chinese government is rolling out new measures aimed at streamlining the patenting process, boosting intellectual property protections, and levelling the playing field for domestic and international companies.

The announcement is seen as another step to reassure China's trading partners amid the ongoing US trade talks, and calls for a greater openness of the Chinese economy.

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According to China's state-run Xinhua news agency, Beijing will reduce the time it takes to review patents by 15 percent this year, in a bid to support the development and implementation of breakthrough technologies.

The move is also expected to bring down regulatory hurdles in China's tech sector, as the nation is seeking to develop a 5G network, and enhance the development and production of high-tech and digital equipment with a higher added value than consumer goods — which have been a key staple of Chinese exports over the past two decades.

Meanwhile, experts say China has already achieved some progress on the path to improve its intellectual property protections. They say Beijing's latest announcements could make China's technology sector an even safer and more active environment.

"The concept of patenting by Chinese companies became very prominent," Yukon Huang of the Washington, DC-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said. "Better courts were created in the major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, only in the last four or five years, and more neutral courts are being created throughout China," he added.

Beijing's latest plans come as US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are reportedly set to visit China yet again to advance bilateral trade talks. Regulatory changes pertaining to China's intellectual property and the technology sector have been a component of US attempts to strike a trade agreement with Beijing.

For his part, Apple CEO Tim Cook also urged China to advance reforms in tech sector regulation and oversight, which could ease some of the concerns related to China's alleged forced technology transfer.

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"We encourage China to continue to open up, we see that as essential, not only for China to reach its full potential, but for the global economy to thrive," Cook said.

The Apple CEO made his remarks at the China Development Forum in Beijing, saying changes in China's policies could help resolve its bitter trade stalemate with the US.

Meanwhile, Xinhua also reported China would review reducing the time it takes to issue trademarks to less than 5 months. The move is expected to boost China's investment appeal, as international companies would be more inclined to do business in China amid looser regulatory standards. Chinese officials haven't provided further details regarding their plans.

However, speaking at the 20th China Development Forum, the head of Beijing's National Intellectual Property Administration Gan Shaoning said the government would improve its oversight mechanisms related to technology and know-how.

Gan also reiterated China's commitment to abandoning its decades-old rules that give preferential treatment to Chinese companies in comparison to their international counterparts.

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Economists expect China's ongoing efforts to ease regulatory standards to lead to advances in the development in the nation's services sector, which has been falling behind amid the booming industrial production over the past two decades.

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"So liberalising foreign investment in these areas increases competition, and brings in the kinds of skills that China just really needs," Huang said. "It's a win-win for both sides."

Experts believe Beijing's effort to reform the patenting process could also provide greater clarity to foreign investors on what to expect when doing business in China. However, such measures might prove insufficient, if China and the US fall short of reaching a trade agreement this year.

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