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China’s latest weapon in acquiring Western tech: Domestic courts

Several Chinese rulings have invalidated some foreign patents in industries the country deems important, including technology, pharmaceuticals and rare-earth minerals. "It's incomprehensible that so many cases go wrong at the same time," said a Western executive.

The growing conflict between the U.S. and China stretches from a computer chip factory to a suspected spy balloon over the United States. Running through it all is a contest for technological superiority.

China has been trying to develop cutting-edge technology for years, in part by spending heavily on research. China is now also using its domestic legal system to acquire technology from other countries, according to Western officials and business executives.

U.S. and EU officials have accused China of using domestic courts and patent review panels to undermine foreign intellectual property and help Chinese companies. Such practices in China have focused on sectors it deems important, such as technology, pharmaceuticals and rare earth minerals, they said.

A Chinese legal team has invalidated a ten-year-old patent of an American X-ray equipment maker. In a Shanghai court, a Spanish mobile antenna designer lost a patent suit in similar circumstances. Another Chinese court has ruled that a Japanese conglomerate violated antitrust laws by refusing to license its technology to a Chinese competitor.

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