Home » Policy & public » ‘Protecting Intellectual Property in China’: A SynBioBeta Panel Set for June in Beijing

‘Protecting Intellectual Property in China’: A SynBioBeta Panel Set for June in Beijing

A panel discussion “Protecting Intellectual Property in China during the first-ever SynBioBeta Activate! China

Toledo, Ohio has been the nation’s glass-manufacturing capital for more than a century. Deciding to showcase the city’s glassmaking legacy, the Toledo Museum of Art in 2006 came up with a design for a magnificent “Glass Pavilion” that required more than 300 glass panels to serve as exterior and interior walls. Each was 14 feet high and eight feet wide and weighed 1300 to 1500 pounds.

But here was the problem: No one in Toledo could produce these huge, complex panels. To build this new pavilion in the nation’s “Glass City,” the museum had to go to Avic Sanxin, a company in Shenzhen, China, which got the job because it was willing to invest in technology necessary to produce complex glass, including a $500,000 piece of equipment.  

That will to succeed in business is not limited to glass manufacturing in China, says patent attorney James Schroeder, who has specialized in global intellectual property issues for nearly 20 years and focused on China for the last ten.

“If you apply it to genomics, no one knows what will happen, but you can be sure it will be interesting,” says Schroeder. “They have stellar researchers and they’re very well supported. What people in China are now presenting as pilot projects soon will be revolutionary applications. Everything just happens more quickly here.”  

China became the world’s top patent filer in 2011, surpassing the U.S. and Japan. Its life sciences community has been especially productive, with patent applications in pharmaceuticals increasing 13 percent annually.

The opportunities in China are “staggering,” says Schroeder, but “you can get yourself into real trouble if you’re not proactively watching your intellectual property.”

China’s Challenging Reputation in the IP Arena

According to one U.S. study, China accounted for nearly 80 percent of all IP thefts from U.S.-headquartered organizations in 2013, which translated into an estimated $300 billion in lost business. That’s why a June 14 panel discussion, “Protecting Intellectual Property in China, is certain to be among the best-attended during the first-ever SynBioBeta Activate! China” series, which will take attendees to events in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, the nation’s three main centers of synthetic biology development.

As an IP advisor who is closely allied with the China life science community, Schroeder will be among the panelists participating in that discussion, as will Edward You, a supervisory special agent with the FBI who is focused on biosecurity and ways to intercept the use of manufactured DNA as possible agents for bioterrorism.

Acknowledging China’s challenging reputation in the IP arena, Schroeder says the risks of IP leaks can be managed if companies realistically assess the risk and take practical steps for protection. Most importantly, he says, “If you want to protect yourself in China, you must take advantage of the legal system.”

“The sheer volume of filings in China can make engaging in business there tricky,” he adds. “There will be a real economic impact if people are filing a lot of patent applications and tying up others.”

Why is Synthetic Biology Important in China?

The incredible potential for China’s synthetic biology community is one reason the opportunities in the industry are so plentiful, says Schroeder. But China also has a greater “political will for the adoption of new solutions that will benefit the Chinese people” in such key growth areas as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and bioremediation of the country’s great challenges of air, water and soil pollution.

“China has already demonstrated a remarkable ability to implement high-level goals quickly and effectively,” Schroeder notes.  “They’re willing to allow local entrants and international companies to do their best work to serve the local community’s needs. As long as these solutions are tailored to the China market, then market forces will support them.”

“Synthetic biology is so important in China because both the challenges and the opportunities are so compelling,” he continues. “There’s a near trillion-dollar market for cleaning up the soil and water.  Moreover, synthetic biology promises to serve one of the world’s largest healthcare markets at a price point the local population can afford.  When you combine great research with strategic political will leveraging world-class contract research organizations, you will have synthetic biology at ‘China speed.’  The SynBioBeta Activate! China series offers an early view into truly great things to come.”


Dan Forbush

Click here to join our weekly newsletter. We want to hear what you think about this article. Got a tip for our news team? Write to

Job opportunities