I found an interesting question on Medium about how to protect your IP in China. Here is my longer answer:
DON’T even attempt to protect your idea in China — or anywhere for that matter.
The Chinese culture is about free access to knowledge and ideas and understands the fact that it’s all about execution very well. Just imagine we stop IP protection radically and just turn our ideas into reality as fast as possible. Imagine we no longer feel safe because of some highly expensive and questionable patents but instead focus all our energy on execution — competing with the copy cats for even better execution and win a market because of our skills not our 1 microsecond brain spark.
WHAT CUSTOMERS SAY
I applied for a patent once, had some of the best lawyer Silicon Valley has and got a rock solid IP protection nobody could circumvent. Guess what customers said: “Good for you but really want solutions where we have options and are not locked in.
THE VALUE OF NOT HAVING A PATENT
Having a patent protects only you. But without a patent you get something that everybody is actually seeking for lifetime: “Market Leadership”. You can only be a leader if you have followers. No follower — no leader. Competition is the best lubrication for well run machines. If you have no competition, you never know if you are really the best or not. Now look around and look for any product that is fully patent protected and you say ‘yes, this is the coolest product on earth’ — even if you find one it is just not really that cool.
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT PROTECTION
Ok ok ok — there are products that are extremely hard to develop, very hard and costly to test and if they don’t get protection, they won’t develop it. Well if it is so hard to develop, let followers find their way, have them do their own clinical tests and so forth. At the end even in those cases it broils down to execution.
KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE FREE
I’m not Chinese and not a particular fan of China even though I very much admire their advances, but I definitely go with their philosophy: Knowledge should be free. And today China is on their way to top Silicon Valley because the communicate even faster, even wider and are even more open than good ol’ SV.