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Despite the fact that the World Trade Organization commits member nations to accord treatment no less favorable to nationals of other member nations as it treats its own with regard to intellectual property, a new study from Rassenfosse and Raiteri finds evidence of an anti-foreign bias in the issuance of patents in sectors that the Chinese government finds of strategic importance (as defined by a sector’s inclusion in China’s National Medium and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development 2006-2020).
While much analysis has focused on unequal enforcement of IP rights in China, this is the first study to find systematic evidence of bias in the granting of patents against foreigners in China. As the authors conclude, “Given the importance of industrial policy in China and the country’s strong focus on indigenous innovation and intellectual property, the empirical results provide a case of technology protectionism by means of the patent system.”