Professor Wu Handong: Voicing out for China’s Progress in Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)

At the 2020 China Copyright Annual Conference hosted by the Copyright Society of China on December 10, Professor Wu Handong was awarded “Lifetime Achievement”, together with Liu Chuntian, an outstanding scholar on copyright. Yan Xiaohong, the deputy director of the Culture, History and Studies Committee of the CPPCC and the president of the Copyright Society of China, awarded them the certificate honoring their great contributions to China’s progress in copyright.

40 Years on the Road of IPRs

Prof. Wu Handong was one of the students who enrolled in college when the entrance exam resumed in 1977. Before he embraced college life at the age of 27, he has gained various work experiences, such as farmer and postman. Driven by his thirst for knowledge and college life, Prof. Wu entered the Law Department of Hubei Institute of Finance and Economics in 1977, became a member of what later referred to as “the First Class of Law in China”.

After his graduation in 1982, he chose to stay on campus for teaching and continued his postgraduate studies, majoring in the basic theory of civil law under the guidance of the much revered jurist Zhang Ruolong (1925–2006) and two respected civil jurists, Li Jingtang (1925-2021) and Luo Yuzhen (1933-).

Later in 1985, the Decision on the Reform of the Science and Technology Management System issued by the Central Committee of the CPC officially affirmed technology as a commodity and acknowledged its value in commodity markets.

Deeply related to the significance of knowledge and technological innovation and fully aware of the scarcity of related studies in China’s legal context, Prof. Wu was determined to devote himself to the field of intellectual property rights (hereafter referred to as IPRs).

In the 1980s, China was standing at the starting point of teaching and research of IPRs.

It was also at that time that the Law Department of Hubei University of Finance and Economics set up the teaching team for IPRs. Seizing this golden opportunity, in 1986 Wu dedicated himself to selecting teaching material, which was later compiled as China’s first IPRs textbook, An Introduction to Intellectual Property Law (1987), co-authored with his colleague Min Feng.

In the autumn of 1991, Wu began to pursue a doctoral degree at Renmin University of China in Beijing, studying under the supervision of renowned civil jurist Chao Zhongfu (1929–).

Intellectual Property was still the theme of his PhD research during his one-year Ministry of Education appointment to Syracuse University in August 1992.

From his college days to his teaching career, it has been 40 years since Wu Handong worked on the road of IPRs

Beginning with his Master’s thesis “Study on the Intellectual Property System in the General Principles of Civil Law” (1986), which was recognized as the first of many studies of IPRs in China, Wu has published more than 10 works and textbooks as well as 200 papers and delivered over 100 lectures related to IPRs.

In 2006, Wu provided a lecture on “The Improvement of Laws and Institutions for the Intellectual Property Rights Protection in China” to national leaders at the 31st group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

Between 2009 and 2010, he was on the list of the 50 Most Influential People in IP twice.

The past four decades witnessed Wu’s rigorous scholarship in studying, teaching and writing. He regards himself modestly as a “researcher and messenger of China’s IPRs progress” and was acclaimed by China’s most prestigious media Guangming Daily, as the “witness and promoter of China’s IPRs”.

“Rejuvenated” Academic Life: Prof. Wu in his 70s

On 25 December this year, Prof. Wu   delivered a keynote speech entitled “The Protection of Copyright: Part of the Strategy of Revitalizing China through Culture and Epitome of National Strengths” at Guangdong Copyright Protection and Industry Development Forum. Although turning seventy, Prof. Wu never stops his academic outputs and always holds that working keeps him young and energetic.

He once said, “When looking back, I have been a farmer, a postman, a teacher and a university president, but what I value most is the time when being a scholar.” Prof. Wu, in his 70s, is even busier than before, engaging in reading and researching. Influential works and papers are published year in and year out. He asserts he is rejuvenated in academic research.

When it comes to research, Prof. Wu never ceases exploring the frontline   and has been a leading role in China’s in IPRs study. In recent years,    groundbreaking papers and speeches focused on artificial intelligence and IPRs have come into life. Among those papers, one entitled “Institutional Arrangement and Legal Regulation in the Era of Artificial Intelligence”, highly concerned by the academic community, became the most-quoted paper in 2018 and 2019, and its impact factor mounted to 6.9109. This paper, successively reproduced in some Chinese academically prestigious journals such as Xinhua Digest, China Social Sciences Digest, China University Academic Abstracts, Social Sciences Digest etc., provides theoretical benchmark for the institutional management and legal regulations in the era of AI.


The Year 2020, suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic, marks “the year on pause”; However, for Prof. Wu, it is a year that fulfilling and rewarding

In January, by making some major revisions and adjustments to his previous works, Prof. Wu republished his Contemporary Chinese Jurists’ Library: Wu Handong's Intellectual Property Research Series (seven volumes), a series of masterpieces that illustrate his research work and law practices on IPRs.

On 5 January, as the Director of Center for Studies of IPRs, ZUEL, Prof. Wu, together with his colleagues, attended the Cooperative Research Seminar on the Sino-Japanese Joint Project on IPRs Protection. Starting from 2013, this joint project, initiated by Prof. Wu, as the convener of Chinese experts, and the Institute of Intellectual Property (IIP), has become one of the grandest intellectual property academic events in China and Japan. Each year, a theme would be chosen as guidance of research and at the end of the year, an annual joint research report will come into life. Consequently , its major achievement has greatly advanced the policy-making on IPRs in both countries.

On 14 February, Prof. Wu, stranded in Hainan Province because of the pandemic, attended the online streaming event “Fundraising One Million through Livestreaming for the Fight against Pandemic” sponsored by No Suit Network Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd, a company devoted to offering legal services through technologies such as big data and AI. At this unexpected invitation, he started his online lecture themed on “Legal Issues in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” through livestreaming with a borrowed computer. With the overnight preparation, the livestream was successful, attracting over ten thousand of viewers, fundraising over two hundred thousand yuan for Wuhan in its fight against the pandemic.

In March, Prof. Wu returned to Wuhan and soon threw himself into writing. Apart from occasional walks or visits to the school office for references, he spent almost all day at home for months preparing new textbooks and manuscripts.

On 26 April, the draft amendment to the Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China was submitted to the 17th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) for deliberations. Prof. Wu participated in several online expert seminars contributing his suggestions on the amendments to the Copyright Law. At the invitation of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, Prof. Wu and his colleagues from the Center for Studies of IPRs, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law (ZUEL) compiled and submitted 18 amendments through online conference discussions.

In June, Prof. Wu published a paper entitled “The Trend of International Legislation on Indirect Patent Infringement and China’s Approach” in Modern Law Science and a paper entitled “Rethinking Copyright in Works Generated by Artificial Intelligence” in Peking University Law Journal. Previously, Prof. Wu’s paper entitled “A Patent Law Inquiry into Artificial Intelligence to Generate Invention” had been published in Contemporary Law Review.

In September, with the smooth start of the new semester, Prof. Wu admitted one new doctoral student and four new master’s students. At the first meeting with the new students, he expected and inspired them to be politically correct, well behaved and academically ambitious. As the Chairman of the Academic Committee of ZUEL, he also delivered two lectures on “Academic Innovation and Academic Standards” to all postgraduate students and newly recruited faculty members.

On 15 September, the 4th Advisory Committee of Experts on State IPRs was set up, and Prof. Wu received his fourth appointment to the Committee in Beijing.

On 10 December, the Intellectual Property Law Alliance of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (IPLAG) 2020 Annual Conference and the “Macao Forum for Intellectual Property” were held in Macao. As Honorary Director of Macau IPRs Research Center, which was jointly established by Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) and ZUEL, Prof. Wu delivered a keynote speech entitled “Changes of  International Intellectual Property System and China’s Responses”. Later on the same day, he travelled all the way from Macau to Zhuhai, Guangdong to attend the 2020 China Copyright Annual Conference, where he was awarded  “Lifetime Achievement”.

On 14 December, the People’s Daily published his article entitled “To Protect IPRs is to Protect Innovation”.

“My academic career continues. I feel greatly fortunate to pursue what I love as my career, so the joy I feel overwhelms the pain and motivates me to keep going.” In his 70s, Prof. Wu jokingly refers to himself as “post-70s”, and it is relentless academic pursuit that keeps him young and engaged. Year 2021, he makes a new year resolution of “always on the road”.

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