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WIPO Director General Concludes Visit to China’s Greater Bay Area

March 29, 2024

WIPO Director General Daren Tang wrapped up on March 29, 2024 a five-day visit to China’s Greater Bay Area, meeting with government officials, business leaders and academia in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hainan where he also attended Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference.

The Greater Bay Area is a major hub of science, technology and innovation. Innovators in Guangdong filed over 28,000 international patent applications under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 2023. This is 10% of the global total and 40% of China’s total, with four firms based in the region among the world’s top-15 users.

The commitment to using intellectual property (IP) as a tool for development and business growth was evident in the full range of meetings. Government officials reaffirmed support from China’s top leadership to using IP-backed innovation driven policies for development. Business leaders also highlighted the importance of IP in their strategic development plans.

Guangzhou

In Guangzhou, Mr. Tang met with Commissioner Shen Changyu, China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), to take stock of bilateral relations and discuss future cooperation. Commissioner Shen recalled last year’s celebrations of 50 years of WIPO-China relations and said 2024 was yet another a year of milestones for China’s IP ecosystem: it was the 30th anniversary of China’s accession to the PCT, the 10th anniversary of the opening of WIPO’s Office in China and the 10th anniversary of China’s funds in trust program with WIPO.

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WIPO Director General Meets CNIPA Commissioner (Photo: WIPO/Shamoon).

Mr. Shen said the innovation driven focus would be intensified further to the Government’s emphasis on “new quality productive forces,”, a model for economic development based on science, technology and innovation. Mr. Shen said that CNIPA would play an important role in implementing this new model. He noted that 12 million students are expected to graduate this year in China with 40% majoring in science. In addition, Mr. Shen said his country would continue to play an active role at WIPO, especially with respect in the Organization’s work to promote the use of IP for development.

Also in Guangzhou, Mr. Tang met with Mr. Lin Tao, Vice Governor of Guangdong, to discuss the importance of innovation-driven policies in the region. Mr. Tao highlighted the concentration of innovation driven companies in the region.

Mr. Tang visited Sun Yat-sen University and met with Mr. Gao Song, President, Mr. Zhang Liang, Dean of Law and other professors. Sun Yat-sen University is one of the country’s biggest and highly ranked universities with a student body of over 60,000. The university has a tech transfer office which manages IP emerging from its R&D labs, and also files a number of PCT applications. The Director General also spoke to a group of law and science students about the history and future of innovation, and the role that the modern IP system plays in incentivizing innovation.

The Director General spoke at the opening of the Guangdong-Hong Kong- Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) Conference on IP, Innovation and Commercialization. Mr. Tang applauded the IP developments in the GBA and supported the emphasis on IP commercialization at this Conference. He also noted the region’s growing maturity in IP finance, which together with its status as a financial services hub, placed it in a strong position to play an important role in the global development of IP finance. He said “we hope to continue working together to develop and enhance IP finance and valuation for the good of innovative businesses seeking growth.”

Guangdong Governor Wang Weizhong, whom the Director General met ahead of the opening ceremony, told Conference participants that IP is a strategic resource and a key element in regional development. He lauded China’s cooperation with WIPO and pledged to continue to strengthen bilateral ties and supporting WIPO’s work.

Mr. Tang also visited EHang, a company that is a pioneer in the area of electric autonomous aerial vehicles. EHang is a growing user of the IP system and its Vice President Paul Xue shared that close to 45% of its revenue is ploughed back into R&D investments. He also shared that EHang's founder Hu Huazhi is among the top inventors in this area, personally contributing to 10% of all global patents filed as of August 2022.  Both sides discussed the current trends in IP strategy, including the need to use all types of IP as a portfolio of intangible assets, the use of patent landscaping and analytics, the high costs of pursuing patent prosecution and the need for more continuous learning and training courses for IP professionals and experts.

Shenzhen

During his visit to Shenzhen - a leading technology hub characterized by an entrepreneurial and innovative culture - Mr. Tang met with municipal officials as well as business leaders.

Mr. Qin Weizhgong, Mayor of Shenzhen Municipal People’s Government, said that 45 years ago, Shenzhen had a population of just over 20,000 which has now grown to more than 20 million. Shenzhen ranks first in the country in industrial output and export volume among all cities in China. He said the city is home to many innovation-driven companies who attach great importance to the protection of the IP.

Mr. Tang welcomed the emphasis placed by Shenzhen’s leaders on IP-driven innovation, saying this reflected the wider policies of the country. He said China’s development in IP innovation is not by chance but through deliberate design, planning and execution from top government levels and agencies over many years. The Director General welcomed the emphasis that China is placing on high quality development with a focus not just on registration of IP but also on use and commercialization. He said Shenzhen will continue to play a leading role in this area because the enterprises are dynamic and innovation driven. Vice Mayor Shenzhen Zhang Liwei also noted the high concentration of many innovation-driven companies in Shenzhen that are all prolific users of the IP system.

One of the giants in this area is Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies, a leading manufacturer of telecommunications equipment and smartphones. The company has also been the largest user of WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for seven consecutive years, filing 6,494 applications in 2023 alone. Mr. Tang discussed the history and value of IP in supporting innovation with Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei. Both sides also discussed how innovation will transform enterprise value from tangible to intangible assets, and that IP should be a bridge for collaboration and addressing common global challenges.

Mr. Tang also visited the headquarters in Shenzhen of XtalPi and met with CFO Tan Wenkang. XtaIPi, a high-tech SME driven by AI and robotics innovation, is active across a number of fields including pharmaceutical development. Mr. Tan outlined the company's IP strategy, emphasizing the importance of a whole range of IP for XtalPi's development.

Hainan

In the last leg of his visit, Mr. Tang met with a number of top officials in Hainan. These included Mr. Feng Fei, Party Secretary of Hainan Province, who outlined the province’s ambitions to become an agricultural, innovation and trade hub. He said IP would play an important role in the region’s development and was pleased to share that Hainan has established an IP specialist court. Mr. Tang said that the IP strategy was clearly aligned with Hainan’s development strategy, and pledged WIPO’s support.

In Hainan, Mr. Tang also met with Mr. Zhang Jianchun, Vice Minister, China's National Copyright Administration (NCAC) to take stock of bilateral relations in the field of copyright and the creative economy. Mr. Zhang Jianchun was pleased with WIPO’s support to China’s copyright activities and hoped that cooperation would continue to grow. Mr. Tang spoke about the challenges to the copyright system posed by AI, as well as the coming together of digital innovation and deep tech.

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WIPO Director General Meets China's NCAC Vice Minister (Photo: WIPO/Shamoon).

In addition, the Director General met Mr. Pu Chun, Vice Minister of the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), an agency with responsibility for trade secrets, unfair competition as well as IP enforcement.  Mr. Pu Chun also noted how the emphasis on “new quality productive forces” would further highlight the importance of IP in the country. He said SAMR would like to intensify cooperation with WIPO on projects that would further strengthen China’s IP innovation ecosystem. Mr. Tang recalled that WIPO and SAMR signed a memorandum of understanding last year outlining areas of cooperation and that WIPO would be pleased to build on this.

The Director General also met with Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Special Envoy for Climate Change Affairs of China. They discussed how innovation was critical to addressing climate change and explore opportunities to collaborate, including China’s further participation in WIPO Green.

Boao Forum for Asia

Mr. Tang spoke at the opening of the 2024 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference along with Mr. Zhao Leji, State Leader of China, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Chairman of the BFA, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Lionel Aingimea, President of Nauru and Mr. Hun Sen, former Prime Minister of Cambodia.

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WIPO Director General Speaks at Opening of 2024 Boao Forum for Asia (Photo: BFA).

Mr. Tang outlined WIPO’s vision of a world where IP is “a powerful catalyst for all countries to create jobs, attract investments, support businesses, and for economic and social development,” as well as serving the needs of all member states. He added, “In these difficult and challenging times, our belief is that that IP can be a bridge, not just between an idea and the world, but also between different peoples and cultures from around the world. WIPO will work hard to support each Member State to use IP grow and develop, and the family of Member States to harness the power of innovation to address our common global challenges.”

Mr. Tang also spoke at the High-level Roundtable on “Intellectual Property for Sustainable Development” that was moderated by WIPO Assistant Director General Edward Kwakwa. Other speakers included Mr. Li Baodong, Secretary General, BFA, Mr. Shen Changyu, CNIPA Commissioner, Mr. Zhang Jianchun, NCAC Vice Minister, Mr. Denis Bohoussou, Director General of OAPI, Mr. Bemanya Twebaze, Director General of ARIPO and many senior Chinese governmental officials as well as senior business leaders.

In addition, Mr. Tang attended a discussion on “Green Development: Inspiring a Shared Future for Urban & Rural Communities,” which was moderated by WIPO Deputy Director General Wang Binying, alongside former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

In a bilateral meeting, Mr. Li Baodong, Secretary General of Boao Forum for Asia, thanked the Director General for taking part in the BAF and welcomed WIPO’s support to the Forum. To further develop relations, Mr. Tang and Mr. Baodong signed a memorandum of understanding outlining areas of future cooperation. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary General and currently Chair of the BFA, witnessed the signing of the agreement.