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Intellectual property (IP) is back in focus after US President Trump asked his trade office to look into the issue of China allegedly stealing American technology and IP, and eroding US firms' competitive edge.
US President Donald Trump earlier this week directed his trade office to look into allegations against China of IP and technology theft and its impact on American business. This was followed by the White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon's remarks in an interview published Wednesday by US news site prospect.org that the US would use Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from US corporations doing business in China. "We're at economic war with China," Bannon said.
After Trump authorized the inquiry, China said it would take action to defend its interests if the United States damaged trade ties.
To grasp what is at stake in these highly emotive accusations and counteraccusations, one needs to understand what intellectual property really is. "Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce," according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, an intergovernmental body set up to promote the protection of IP worldwide.
That means if a person or a company comes up with a new idea or product, or a process that offers a new way of doing something, then they are granted an exclusive right over the use of their creation for a certain period of time. IP rights are generally enforced by granting patents, trademarks and copyrights to the originators of innovative ideas.