Chinese Attitudes toward Intellectual Property Rights-Change and Continuity


  • Heidi (Ge) Hai School of Law, New York University, New York, USA
  • Peter A. Dutton Professor and Director, China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College
  • Jerome A. Cohen Professor of Law Emeritus, School of Law, New York University, New York, USA



Intellectual Property, China, Sino-US, IPR, Copyright, Trademark, Patent, Legal History, International Law


Intellectual property has been central to Sino-US disputes in the past decades. The US government has taken various measures to compel China to enforce IP rights (IPR) protection in conformity with what would be acceptable by US standards, only to find differences persisting and these IPR disputes far from resolved. To better understand the tension between China and the US over IPR protection, this note provides a historical analysis of China’s IPR development from Late Qing to today, focusing on the changes and continuities in Chinese attitudes toward IPR across different periods. Without indigenous concepts of IPR, China was forced to accept western standards at a time of military and political weakness and has consequently remained vigilant against foreign domination in this field. However, China also gradually developed a genuine appreciation for modern IPR to the degree that would benefit China's economic development and status in the global community. A normative judgment on China's IPR protection would frustrate efforts at dispute resolution by assuming US standards of IPR protection as universally ideal. As China and the US continue to cooperate in trade and technology, mutual understanding and appreciation of a shared set of IP standards would be essential.


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Author Biographies

Heidi (Ge) Hai, School of Law, New York University, New York, USA

Heidi (Ge) Hai is a candidate for J.D., May 2022. She gained substantive experience in M&A transactions through assisting with large-scale diligence reviews, summarizing term sheets, and shadowing at conference calls. She obtained extensive and in-depth exposure to media and intellectual property law aspects. She conducted legal research on compliance strategies for businesses in the energy and technology industries. She was Ex-Vice President of Sponsorship and Outreach, Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association, and Ex-Social Co-Chair, Teaching Assistant for Graduate Lawyering Class Spring 2021. Participant of Social Enterprise & Startup Law Group Winter Break Trip. Student Leader of Asian American Bar Association of New York. Volunteered for Asian American Bar Association’s Fall Conference in 2019.

Peter A. Dutton, Professor and Director, China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College

Professor Dutton is the interim dean, of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies. He formerly served as director of the China Maritime Studies Institute, professor of strategic research, and professor of law. His research focuses on China’s maritime expansion, Chinese views of sovereignty and international law, and factors shaping China’s rise. A retired Navy judge advocate and former naval flight officer, he holds a Ph.D. from King’s College London, a J.D. from the College of William & Mary, and an M.A. from NWC. He is an adjunct professor at NYU School of Law, a faculty advisor to NYU’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute, and an associate in research at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

Jerome A. Cohen, Professor of Law Emeritus, School of Law, New York University, New York, USA

Prof. Jerome A. Cohen, a professor at NYU School of Law since 1990 and Faculty Director of its U.S.-Asia Law Institute, is a leading American expert on Chinese law and government. A pioneer in the field, Prof. Cohen began studying and teaching about China’s legal system in the early 1960s and, from 1964 to 1979, introduced the teaching of Asian law into the curriculum of Harvard Law School, where he served as Jeremiah Smith Professor, Associate Dean and Director of East Asian Legal Studies. In addition to his responsibilities at NYU, Prof. Cohen served for several years as C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he currently is an Adjunct Senior Fellow. He retired from the partnership of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP at the end of 2000 after twenty years of law practice focused on China. In his law practice, Prof. Cohen represented many companies and individuals in contract negotiations and in dispute resolution in China.




How to Cite

Hai, H. (Ge), Dutton, P. A., & Cohen, J. A. (2022). Chinese Attitudes toward Intellectual Property Rights-Change and Continuity. American Journal of Trade and Policy, 9(2), 59–70.