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Reforms in Intellectual Property Under the Guomindang

Following the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, China experienced several years of political upheaval before the country was largely united under the government of the Nationalist Guomindang Party in 1927. When the Guomindang (GMD) first came to power, efforts were made to stimulate invention and creativity. The Guomindang carried out an extensive programme of legislation, first soon after the end of the Qing Dynasty and further, more extensive, reforms after 1927. For example, soon after the fall of the Qing dynasty, the Guomindang announced the Temporary Statute on Technology Reward of 1912. The Guomindang also introduced a trademark law which saw 50,000 trademark registrations by 1948, a detailed copyright law and the first patent law in Chinese history (Yang 2002, p. 6).

Additionally, the first copyright law was passed in 1928, which borrowed extensively from the German model via the Japanese version and was amended in 1944 to grant more equal treatment to both Chinese and foreign authors (Qu 2002, p. 26). A comprehensive trademark law was passed in 1931 which was still in force when the Communists came to power in 1949; according to some sources, this law was again transplanted from the Continent via Japan (Carter 1996, p. 11). The patent law drafted in 1944 formalised the system previously established by the Measures to Encourage Industrial Arts of 1932. These laws could thus be seen as the first introduction of formal IP protection to China.

Nevertheless, despite the promulgation of these landmark intellectual property laws, “these laws failed to achieve their stated objectives because they presumed a legal structure, and indeed, a legal consciousness, that did not then exist in China and, most likely, could not have flourished there at that time” (Alford 1996, p. 53). These fundamental IP laws called for administration through well-organised central agencies and modern courts, which simply were not present in China at that time. As a result, despite detailed legislation being adopted, there were very little changes in Chinese IP practice during Guomindang rule.

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