Guo Shoukang: a “National Treasure” master
( China IP )
Updated: 2010-10-25

Mr. Guo said, “Looking back 30 years ago, we had encountered an arduous, tortuous and lengthy process as we began to prepare for the drafting of relevant IP laws. Under the guidance of policies in the reform and opening up, we began to consider drafting our own patent law, trademark law and copyright law. In 1979, the drafting groups for the three laws were established in succession.”

Talking about the difficult process at the beginning of legislation, Mr. Guo stated: “At that time splits in understanding were mainly embodied in the drafting process of Patent Law. On the afternoon of March 19, 1979, the China Patent Law Drafting Group, comprised of seven members (later one more was added) was established at the office of Wu Heng, then Vice-President of the State Science and Technology Commission. Although preparations were made and some members went for overseas studies and domestic surveys, the drafting group lacked both references and experience, and utterly started from scratch. It should be said that it was a very difficult process. The first draft of Patent Law met much resistance after being submitted to the Central Government, many leaders had raised strong oppositions, and ideas were greatly split. The opposing views were mainly twofold: firstly, patents were generated in capitalist countries and did not agree with the nature of socialism; secondly, from the technical perspective, a huge discrepancy existed between us and the western countries and patents protected interests of foreigners more. At a meeting, some were disgruntled that it was not the right time to make Patent Law, and that it did not consider any national interests and was a word-for-word copy of foreign countries. Others strongly criticized the meeting and even took its chairman to task, making it difficult for the chairman to make concluding remarks. I was asked to make a systematic remark at the end of the meeting, and I made a relatively systematic and in-depth analysis of the issues discussed. Later, views were gradually uniformed, recognizing that the patent system could serve both capitalism and socialism. Moreover, China's reform and opening-up must go hand in hand with international practices. We have suffered great losses due to the absence of the patent system and disharmony with the international community. Eventually, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee adopted Patent Law on March 12, 1984.”

“Our Trademark Law started a bit late, but it was passed very quickly, because the problems were relatively simple.” Guo Shoukang said, “Two main problems were addressed, the first one was to change from forced registration to voluntary registration, and the second was to grant exclusive rights of use to trademark registrants. In fact, in the 1950s, trademark registration was voluntary, however, in the 1960s, the Regulations came out, denying voluntary trademark registration and demanding comprehensive registration, and all trademarks were required to be registered mandatorily. However, registered trademarks did not have exclusive rights of use which belonged to the country; as a result, many manufacturers were able to use the same trademarks. In fact, the trademarks at that time did not qualify as trademarks in the real sense, but rather as an administration tool, and they could no longer be deemed as IP. The 1982 Trademark Law resolved these problems, providing for voluntary registration and granting exclusive rights to use registered trademarks as well.”

“The legislation process of the Copyright Law was also very tortuous, spanning more than ten years from establishment of a ‘copyright research group’ in 1979 to the final promulgation of the Copyright Law in 1990. The discussions met with troubles from the very beginning, because we had to participate in international conventions and pay use fees upon establishment of the system, thus the country would bear an onerous economic burden. Therefore, some proposed establishment of a copyright system at home without joining in international treaties, which was obviously unrealistic. The Ministry of Finance calculated at that time that once the copyright system was in place, we had to pay USD 900 million a year for use fees, therefore, strong oppositions existed. But later after in-depth investigations, we found that it was not the case in fact. Finally, Copyright Law was approved in the 1990s.”

“It should be said that there would be no IP without the reform and opening-up. On one hand, the establishment of an IP system is the embodiment and deepening of policies of the reform and opening-up; on the other, development of an IP system also deepens the reform and opening-up policies. Over the past 30 years, we have made great achievements in the legislative and judicial systems as a whole. We have over four million patents and over 5.6 million trademark applications, China has become a big IP country. However, we are not a powerful IP country and we still have many problems. For example, we don’t have many inventions and innovations, particularly invention patents, that are of pioneering, pivotal or landmark nature; we don’t have trademarks universally recognized as well-known trademarks and their influence is quite limited; piracy has not been totally eliminated.”

An ordinary and respectable elder

As a knowledgeable and world-renowned scholar, Mr. Guo maintains peace of mind and does not care about fame and fortune. At present, he keeps his simple way of life by taking no cars, riding bicycles, does not use cell phones but computers. In his small study, all types of books are piled tightly on the ground and on tables and chairs.

A kind of irresistible affinity exists in Mr. Guo. When contacting him for the interview, he patiently told us the specific route to his home, and was even careful enough to ask us how far and if we were driving a car or riding a motorcycle?

When he learned that our magazine is composed of a group of young people, Mr. Guo said encouragingly: “It is a good thing for youngsters to devote themselves to the popularity and promotion of IP rights. I am willing to serve you as a volunteer publicist.”

By Kevin Nie, China IP

(Translated by Wang Hongjun)

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