The Chinese idiom “beating the grass and startling the snake” tells of a county magistrate in ancient China who was greedy and practiced bribery and graft  to further his own wealth and power. However, one day a man who lived in the county governed by the magistrate became aware of the ongoing crimes (though he remained unaware of the actual perpetrator), and sent a petition to alert the magistrate. Realizing that he was in danger of discovery, the magistrate remarked “he has beaten the grass and startled the snake.” Afterwards, the magistrate sent his men to seek out the citizen in question and make sure he would cause no further trouble.

This idiom in Chinese: 打草惊蛇, dǎ cǎo jīng shé

The moral of this idiom is to avoid acting prematurely or incautiously and alerting others to your plans  – if the citizen in the story had taken more time to investigate before acting, he likely could have avoided an untimely end.

IPR Concerns in China

While the Chinese market is still undeveloped and holds many opportunities for Western companies and businessmen, IPR is still a prominent cause for concern.

First, similar to the US during its own early development, China is much laxer on its enforcement of IPR laws than more developed countries. Many Chinese companies have taken advantage of this to copy western designs and ideas. If a Western product or design makes a big splash in China, such as the iPhone, it is likely that local copycats will soon be popping up left and right.

Second, even when IPR laws are enforced in China, brands and trademarks must be registered locally first. When Western companies have patents and copyrights in other countries, they still must be registered for a second time in China. And if a Western brand has not been registered in China, a local competitor can at any time apply for the rights to use (and own) it.

Third, local Chinese competitors usually have a stronger knowledge of Chinese consumers, and can gain and share information faster through local relationship networks. Therefore, Western companies with plans to enter the Chinese market are advised to guard their plans closely and conduct all necessary preparations as discretely as possible.

For more news on issues relating to Chinese companies hijacking the IPR of foreign companies and brands, please click HERE.

Thanks for reading!

Do you have any thoughts or questions on IPR issues in China? Do you know any other useful Chinese idioms that are similar to the one above? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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