Ministers from China and Japan have announced plans to cooperate on the protection of IP rights in an effort to strengthen economic stability in the region. The move could have a major impact on the laws and strategies of both jurisdictions.

Signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Sunday, economic ministers from China and Japan agreed to establish a working group to look into IP issues. "The agreement on IP rights protection signed by China and Japan is significant not only for the bilateral cooperation in the IP field, but also for the promotion of economic and technological cooperation between China and Japan," says Wang Zhengfa, partner at Hylands Law Firm in Beijing.

Immediate results of an exchange of information could include stronger protection for geographical indications, such as those for Japanese brands that cannot be registered as a trademark in China, and vice versa. Additionally, states Danny Friedmann, consultant on Chinese IP rights and author of IP Dragon, Japan will be able to use the agreement in its fight against Chinese-manufactured counterfeit goods. "Japan can channel its frustrations and problems originating from Chinese imitations of Japanese products," says Friedmann, "and China can profit from Japan's successful experience in IP rights enforcement."

The MOU between the two parties may also impact on China's third amendment to the Chinese Trademark Law, due later this year. But as the first meeting of the working group is only pencilled in to happen by the end of the year, it may be some time before hard evidence of the agreement is seen. "An MOU is not binding," notes Friedmann. "So this is part of soft diplomacy, to improve good will between the two nations."

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