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IPR fears won't derail China's exports of bullet trains: official

Publication Date : 18-01-2013


Fears over intellectual property rights will not derail China's exports of bullet trains, as the technology is home-grown, the vice-minister of science and technology said as he dismissed as "nonsense" copycat claims by a Japanese company.

The country had developed its own version of high-speed technology through years of innovation, Cao Jianlin said in an exclusive interview.

Cao also encouraged Chinese companies to file for patents overseas.

China's high-speed rail industry has been booming since 2004, and Cao said the sector "will further research patent strategy and the global IPR situation to better understand the laws and policies of countries they export to".

His comments come after Kawasaki Heavy Industries suggested China had not developed its own high-speed technology.

The Japanese company teamed up with CSR Sifang, which then produced China's bullet trains after the Ministry of Railways launched a bidding process to build a high-speed network. Purchasing contracts and technology transfer agreements were signed with Chinese counterparts.

Other global companies, such as Siemens of Germany, Alstom of France and Canada's Bombardier, also signed the contracts and agreements.

"China says it owns exclusive rights to that intellectual property, but Kawasaki and other foreign companies feel otherwise," the Japanese company said in a statement quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

The statement added that Kawasaki was looking to solve the issue through talks.

"We did buy trains that could travel at 200 kilometres per hour from Kawasaki, but the purchase was based on legitimate contracts," Cao said.

"Chinese companies paid technology transfer fees according to the contracts, so it is nonsense to accuse China of copying their technology."

Kawasaki constructed the Shinkansen, Japan's bullet train. However, like other manufacturers, a drop in global demand prompted the company to look at overseas markets.

"If Kawasaki really believes China copied its Shinkansen technology, it should have sued the Chinese companies, instead of complaining to the media," Cao said. "Maybe the company did not expect China's high-speed railway to grow so quickly, making the country a world leader."

Based on the transferred knowledge, China's scientists developed a wide range of technologies, including system integration and component parts, the vice-minister said.

Before 2005, China had few patents relating to high-speed trains. The numbers soon started to increase and in the first half of 2012, 163 patents were registered in China. Of these patents, 90 per cent were held by Chinese companies with German, Japanese, French and US companies making up most of the balance, according to Cao.

The Ministry of Science and Technology also carried out high-speed technology innovation. For example, the ministry arranged a group of research projects. The projects attracted 2.2 billion yuan (US$350 million) in government investment and more than 5 billion yuan from the business sector.

"The sci-tech projects helped us to build independent intellectual property rights," Cao said. Chinese companies are producing three 350 km/h trains, and the goal is to link the high-speed network with lower-speed trains, for example elevated trains, travelling inside a city. "This could change people's way of life," Cao said.

It is feasible that people could live and work in different cities, Cao said. "A dynamic economy needs greater public mobility."

On December 26, a new high-speed rail line opened linking Beijing and Guangzhou, but the ticket prices raised a few eyebrows.

Prices for the 2,298 km journey ranged from 865 yuan to 2,727 yuan for the 8-hour trip.

"We have to admit that the ticket price is too high for most people," Cao said. "But we should also be aware that there are some people who are willing to pay the high price to save more time.

"That is the reason we construct high-speed railways - to save time for people who would like to pay more."

*US$1=6.23 yuan


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