Belt and Road Initiative: The Intangible Silk Road

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) comprises not only logistics and energy projects, economic corridors and digital information and communication systems (Digital Silk Road), but also an Intangible Silk Road consisting of patents, trademarks, copyrights and technical standards. And this immaterial Silk Road is growing rapidly – so far largely under the radar of the European economy.

The statistics of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) for patent applications impressively show that the number of Chinese patent applications along the Belt and Road Initiative is constantly increasing. According to CNIPA, Chinese applicants filed a total of 3,125 patent applications in the first half of 2019, 0.4% more than in the first half of 2018. 1,558 of these (around 49%) were registered.

CNIPA statistics also show that many of these patent applications focus on IP-intensive sectors such as telecommunications, electronic devices, instruments and chemical products, as well as software and IT services. The most productive applicants were Huawei, OPPO, Ping An Technology, Midea and BOE Technology.

The figures show that China is not only pushing ahead with its global expansion via the New Silk Road, but is also securing its intellectual property rights. This implies that foreign companies will have to reckon with a limited freedom to operate and that the number of IP violations will grow against the background of increasing trade in the New Silk Road area. In the case of trademarks, defensive applications are becoming more important within the framework.

Picture: Unsplash / Denys Nevozhai

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