China eyes overseas patents for high-speed rail

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-28 07:28
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Beijing - China's railway sector will stick to its strategy to explore high-speed rail markets overseas, a railway ministry spokesman said.

"Since we have stepped out, we won't withdraw," Wang Yongping, spokesman with the Ministry of Railways, told a news conference on Monday, in answer to a question about how China would deal with obstacles in exporting its high-speed rail technologies.

China is now filing patent applications for its high-speed railway technologies in regions including the United States, Brazil, Europe, Russia and Japan, which is an indispensable step for tapping overseas markets, according to Li Jun, director of the general affairs office of the transport bureau under the ministry.

He told China Daily in a written reply on Monday that 21 patent applications have been filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty in these regions. The subjects of the applications are technologies including the high-speed trains' assembly, hull and bogies.

So far, eight of the 21 applications have passed a preliminary examination and entered the next stage related to the examination of the application and issuance of patent, he said.

At home, 1,902 applications concerning high-speed railways have been filed, among which 1,421 patents have been issued.

The efforts are expected to pave the way for CSR Corporation Limited, one of China's two manufacturers of high-speed trains, to enter the US market.

US President Barack Obama in February unveiled a six-year, $53-billion spending plan for high-speed rails. According to previous reports, at least seven companies are now competing in the US market, including CSR.

Last December, CSR and General Electric (GE) signed a joint venture agreement to make high-speed trains in the United States.

Liu Gang, deputy director of the equipment department of transport bureau under the ministry, told the news conference that CSR and GE are now in discussions about transferring CSR's high-speed train technologies to GE.

"If there should be anything standing in the way, it is the US' progress in implementing its plan," he said, adding that the two sides have decided to expand cooperation to the sector of slower trains.

Zhou Li, another official with the ministry's transport bureau, also told the conference that CSR and GE had carried out research concerning the intellectual property rights of CSR's high-speed trains.

Property rights experts from home and abroad and GE's legal consultants studied some 200 patents and concluded that none will generate disputes for the deal, Zhou said.

CSR Qingdao Sifang Co Ltd partnered with Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries in 2004 to produce a 200-km/h train that Kawasaki transferred to China. Based on the platform, the company developed a 300-km/h train and later the CRH380A train with a top speed of 380 km/h, which will operate on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway starting this Thursday.

Ma Yunshuang, deputy general manager and technology director of CSR Qingdao Sifang Co Ltd, told China Daily earlier that after experiments and upgrades to suit China's rail system, the CRH380A is totally different from the train prototype imported from Japan.

"Our technologies may originate from foreign countries, but it doesn't mean that what we have now all belongs to them. We have added our knowledge gained from experiments to the train and made designs to satisfy our needs, so the new train is not theirs anymore."