Exposing the Underbelly: How Engineers Exploit IP Laws in China

Subtitle: Engineers and the Exploitation of Intellectual Property Laws



A recent conversation on social media has shed light on the issue of industrial espionage and intellectual property theft in China. Engineers and technical leaders working for US and European companies are reportedly developing products and then recreating them in China with Chinese investors. This practice, which is openly accepted in the industry, raises concerns about the protection of intellectual property rights and the impact it has on global markets. This article examines the allegations made and explores the complexities surrounding intellectual property theft in China.

The Allegations:

In a discussion about economic and industrial espionage in China, an individual highlighted the prevalent practice of engineers taking proprietary technology and know-how to China to create similar products for the Chinese market. The person argued that this would not be allowed in any other country but China, emphasizing the lack of legal protections for foreign companies. They cited examples of companies like Thoratec/Abbot, Auris/Verb/J&J, and others who experienced similar scenarios.

The Endorsement of Industrial Espionage:

According to the conversation, industrial espionage in China is not a secret or covert operation; it is overt and largely accepted as the norm in the industry. The lack of legal enforcement of intellectual property rights in China has made it a lucrative destination for engineers looking to profit from their expertise. The practice involves engineers developing specific products for hire, and then recreating them in China, taking advantage of the absence of IP laws.

The Influence of the Chinese Government:

The conversation suggests that industrial espionage in China is not just a result of individual actions but a well-planned strategy promoted by the Chinese government. It points to a long-term, well-funded push to create indigenous versions of various products, from industrial equipment to medical devices and semiconductors. The government’s focus on import substitution has contributed to the rampant theft of intellectual property, according to the conversation.

Foreign Companies’ Response:

The alleged challenges of doing business in China and protecting intellectual property have led many foreign companies to take a cautious approach. Rather than risking theft, some companies have chosen to license their technology to Chinese companies, allowing them to manufacture and sell the products exclusively in China. This strategy provides a level of protection against IP theft, even though it limits the company’s presence and potential profits in the Chinese market.

The Legal Implications:

The conversation also delves into the legalities surrounding intellectual property theft. While it may not be explicitly stated in contracts, taking proprietary technology and know-how to another company could be considered theft or a breach of trust. However, the lack of enforcement in China makes it difficult for foreign companies to take legal action.


The conversation surrounding industrial espionage and intellectual property theft in China sheds light on a significant challenge faced by foreign companies operating in the Chinese market. The open acceptance and prevalence of these practices highlight the need for stronger international cooperation on intellectual property protection. As the global economy becomes increasingly interconnected, finding effective solutions to address these issues is essential to safeguarding innovation and ensuring fair competition in the marketplace.

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