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Yiping Xu always wanted his daughter Amy to follow in his footsteps. He studied electrical engineering at Fudan University in Shanghai, and so did she. He became a patent lawyer, and so did she. Today, he is one of China’s leading IP lawyers, and she is following in his footsteps 7,000 miles away in Minneapolis. “I think it’s a good career to be in — not because he’s there,” she says. “I’ve always been interested in technology and inventions.” Amy moved to Minneapolis in the hopes of escaping the gravitational pull of her family. “In those days parents ruled everything,” she says. “That’s why I came to the States.” Instead she is happily writing applications for clients at Minneapolis’ Dorsey & Whitney and going on trade missions back to China with Jesse Ventura, the Minnesota wrestler-governor. Father and daughter both took circuitous routes into patent law. Just to be clear: The phrase Chinese patent lawyer is not an oxymoron, and Yipung Xu is not just any Chinese patent lawyer. Xu, 60, was one of the authors of modern Chinese patent law and is the director general (managing partner) of the Shanghai Patent & Trademark Law Office. Back in 1979, Xu, then still an engineer, led a team of six Chinese scientists and economists to study the U.S. intellectual property system in the hopes of building one in China. He spent seven months at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office outside Washington, D.C., learning how the government examines patent applications. He also observed the workings at Washington, D.C.’s Cushman, Darby & Cushman, an intellectual property boutique that was acquired by what is now Pillsbury Winthrop. “We didn’t know how to practice in firms,” he says. Xu could not simply introduce the U.S. patent system to China. “In those days people thought inventions belonged to the state,” Xu explains. Xu and his team created a set of proposals that borrowed from both U.S. and European IP systems. In 1984 the Chinese assembly passed its first patent law modeled after Xu’s proposals. It protected most inventions, but excluded a few, like pharmaceutical products and software. Another stumbling block was how to license a patent developed by a state-owned company. (The solution is, shall we say, abstruse.) In 1985 Xu founded his own IP firm in Shanghai. At the beginning, the firm was state-owned, he explains while sipping a mocha frappuccino with his daughter at the annual International Trademark Association meeting in May in Washington, D.C. Today, Xu’s Shanghai Patent & Trademark Office has grown into one of the largest private firms in China, with about 120 lawyers and agents. Xu represents U.S. companies seeking trademark and patent protection in China and Chinese companies doing business abroad. Xu’s daughter didn’t intend to become a patent lawyer. Her first trip to the United States was in 1989, when her mother, an English teacher and translator, was a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota. Amy liked the school so much that she transferred from Fudan and completed her electrical engineering major in 1991. To look for a job, she sifted through a stack of business cards she’d gathered at a dinner with her father and his business contacts in Minneapolis. “I wasn’t interested in IP at all,” she recalls. But through his contacts, she eventually landed a job as a clerk at Minneapolis’ Merchant & Gould, an IP boutique. A year later, she took the U.S. PTO’s patent agent exam, and then applied to both law school and graduate school in engineering. “I didn’t know which school to go to, so I went to both,” she says. While holding down her clerk’s job, Xu also attended classes. In 1997 she received her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law and her master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota. (A year later, she got her pilot’s license. Flying is just a hobby.) Last year, she moved to Dorsey & Whitney. Father and daughter don’t work on deals together, but they do both attend a circuit of seminars about IP rights in China. Last year, Xu invited Amy to an IP conference in Shanghai, where she gave a presentation about IP and international trade issues. “Amy did excellent work,” her father says proudly.

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