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Abstract

As China’s rapid economic growth continues to slow, the Chinese Communist Party now seeks to promote innovation as the engine of future development. With this new economic agenda, reforms to China’s intellectual property rights (IPR) regime have emerged as a key policy domain as China attempts to build market-supporting institutions and improve law enforcement capabilities. By reviewing the legal frameworks supporting specific judicial reforms and through non-randomized, semistructured field interviews with lawyers, IP officials, and industry representatives, this article analyzes how China’s evolving legal institutions are increasing central control in the IP adjudication process, building judicial professionalism, and ensuring uniformity in case outcomes in line with the demands of its economic transition. The question of how IP rights are enforced in China is of interest not only to those who want to understand how IP protections have developed in China, but also to those who wish to analyze the role that law and the courts play in structuring central-local relations and implementing institutional reform in a historically fragmented authoritarian system. Although China’s IPR regime is far from perfect, these reforms are indicative of a major initiative to improve IP protections, nurture domestic innovation, and increase the role of China’s judicial system in efficiently resolving disputes.

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