Understanding attitudes towards intellectual property from the perspective of design professionals

  • Xu Sun
  • Xiaosong ZhouEmail author
  • Qingfeng Wang
  • Pinyan Tang
  • Effie Lai-Chong Law
  • Sue Cobb


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are meant to protect and promote creativity and innovation. Regardless of the increasing role of IPR in advancing innovations, the corresponding IPR system in the creative industries is still underdeveloped and facing many challenges, especially in developing countries such as China. For example, designers may wittingly or unwittingly violate IP in their design activities, and piracy is a grave concern for the creative industries in China, which may lead to severe revenue drains. To facilitate the development of an IPR system in the creative industries in China, it is essential first to understand what factors may determine the attitudes of design professionals towards IPR in China. A qualitative contextual interview study, conducted with 49 Chinese designers and design managers, revealed different levels of IPR awareness (e.g. what constitutes IPR and how IPR can be protected), and the perceived effectiveness of IPR law enforcement (i.e. weak law enforcement vs vigorous law enforcement), and how different ethical beliefs and ethical climates can have a distinctive impact on attitudes towards IPR. Moreover, our study found that Chinese design professionals exhibit different motivations for their design work. Such motives in design can stimulate different levels of IPR awareness, and these could have an indirect impact on attitudes towards IPR. Based on these findings, a theoretical model is proposed, which incorporates several factors identified from the contextual interview study. Our theoretical model can serve as a baseline model and provide theoretical foundations for future empirical studies on people’s attitudes towards IPR.


Intellectual property rights Attitudes towards IPR designers Awareness of IPR Image retrieval application 



This work is an integral part of a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to investigate global IP challenges and opportunities for the creative and technical industries.


  1. 1.
    Robinson, W. K. (2016). Economic Theory, divided infringement, and enforcing interactive patents. Florida Law Rev, 67, 1961.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ki, E. J., Chang, B. H., & Khang, H. (2006). Exploring influential factors on music piracy across countries. Journal of Communication, 56, 406–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cao, Q. (2014). Insight into weak enforcement of intellectual property rights in China. Technology in Society, 38, 40–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Mantoro, T. & Prihastomo, Y. (2012). Intellectual property rights information system with location aware capability. In 2012 IEEE conference on control, systems & industrial informatics.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lau, A. K. W., Kong, S. L. S., & Baark, E. (2013). Research advancement on intellectual property strategy. Journal of Science and Technology Policy in China, 3(1), 49–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Schotter, A., & Teagarden, M. (2014). Protecting intellectual property in China. MIT Sloan Management Review., 55, 41.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    McGowan, A., Hahn, R., Liberman, A., & Crosby, A. (2007). Effects on violence of laws and policies facilitating the transfer of juveniles from the juvenile justice system to the adult justice system: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(4S), 7–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Potts, J., & Cunningham, S. (2008). Four models of the creative industries. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 14, 233–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Pang, W., & Plucker, J. A. (2012). Recent transformations in China’s economic, social, and education policies for promoting innovation and creativity. J. Creat. Behav., 46, 247–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ang, J. S., Cheng, Y., & Wu, C. (2014). Does enforcement of intellectual property rights matter in China? Evidence from financing and investment choices in the high-tech industry. Review of Economics and Statistics, 96(2), 332–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Allen, F., Qian, J., & Qian, M. (2005). Law, finance, and economic growth in China $. Journal of Financial Erconomics, 77, 57–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Budde-Sung, A. (2013). The invisible meets the intangible: Culture’s impact on intellectual property protection. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(2), 345–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Zhan, Y. (2014). Problems of enforcement of patent law in China and its ongoing fourth amendment. Journal of Intellectual Property Rights, 19, 266–271.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Alford, W. P. (1995). To steal a book is an elegant offense: Intellectual property law in Chinese civilization. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Yang, D. L., & Clarke, P. (2005). Globalisation and intellectual property in China. Technovation, 25(5), 545–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    UNESCO. (2006). Understanding creative industries: Cultural statistics for public-policy making. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    AT Purcell JS Gero 1998 Drawings and the design process Design Studies 19 4 389 430.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Mgbeoji, I. (2003). The juridical origins of the international patent system: Towards a historiography of the role of patents in industrialization. Journal of the History of International Law, 5(2), 403–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Mun, S.-H. (2008). Culture-related aspects of intellectual property rights: A cross-cultural analysis of copyright. Austin: The University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    McSweeney, B. (2002). Hofstede’s model of national cultural differences and their consequences: A triumph of faith—a failure of analysis. Human Relations, 55(1), 89–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Mckenna, M. P., & Strandburg, K. J. (2014). Progress and competition in design. Stanford Technology Law Review, 17, 1–53.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Flew, T. (2012). The creative industries: Culture and policy. Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Keane, M. (2013). Creative industries in China: Art, Design and Media. Polity Press: Cambridge.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Hui, D. (2007). The creative industries and entrepreneurship in East and Southeast Asia. Entrepreneurship in the creative industries. An international perspective. (pp. 9–29). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Towse, R., & Edward Elgar, P. (2014). Advanced introduction to cultural economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Potts, J., & Cunningham, S. (2008). Four models of the creative industries. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 14(3), 233–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Afori, O. F. (2008). Reconceptualizing property in designs. Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, 25(3), 1105–1178.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    White, G., Searle, N. (2013) Commercial business models for a fast changing industry. In S. Hotho, & N. MacGregor (Eds.), Changing the rules of the game. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Mangematin, V. (2014). Disassembly and reassembly: An introduction to the special issue on digital technology and creative industries. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 83, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Iliea, L. (2014). Intellectual property rights: An economic approach. In 21st international economic conference 2014, IECS 2014, pp. 16–17Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Lehman, J. A. (2006). Intellectual property rights and Chinese tradition section: philosophical foundations. Journal of Business Ethics, 69(1), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bosworth, Derek, & Yang, Deli. (2000). Intellectual property law, technology flow and licensing opportunities in the People’s Republic of China. International Business Review, 9(4), 453–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Thomas, George M. (2001). Religion in global civil society. Sociology of Religion, 62(4), 515–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Hofstede, Geert, Hofstede, Gert Jan, & Minkov, Michael. (2010). Cultures and organizations: software of the mind (3rd ed.). London: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ivanhoe, P. J. (2005). Intellectual property and traditional Chinese culture, In J. K. Campbell, M. O’Rourke, and D. Shier, (eds.), Topics in contemporary philosophy, volume 3, law and social justice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Hwang, K.-K. (2001). The deep structure of confucianism: A social psychological approach. Asian Philosophy, 11(3), 179–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Berland, E. (2013). European citizens and intellectual property: Perception, Awareness and Behaviour. Alicante: Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Kwong, K. K., Yau, O. H. M., Lee, J. S. Y., Sin, L. Y. M., & Tse, A. C. B. (2003). The effects of attitudinal and demographic factors on intention to buy pirated CDs: The case of Chinese consumers. Journal of Business Ethics, 47(3), 223–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Lin, K. W., & Huang, K. P. (2014). Moral judgment and ethical leadership in Chinese management: The role of confucianism and collectivism. Quality and Quantity, 48(1), 37–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Sun and May. (2014). Design of the user experience for personalized mobile services. International Journal of Human Computer Interaction, 5(2), 21–39.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sun, X., Sharples, S., & Makri, S. (2012). A user-centred mobile diary study approach to understanding serendipity in information research. Information Research 16(3), 492.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Wang, Q., Sun, X., Cobb, S., Lawson, G., & Sharples, S. (2016). 3D printing system: An innovation for small-scale manufacturing in home settings?—Early adopters of 3D printing systems in China. International Journal of Production Research, 54(20), 6017–6032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Talhelm, T., Zhang, X., Oishi, S., Shimin, C., Duan, D., Lan, X., et al. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science, 344(May), 603–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Lai, K. K. Y., & Zaichkowsky, J. L. (1999). Brand imitation: Do the Chinese have different views? Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 16, 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Atkinson, J. W. (1958). Motivational determinants of risk-taking behaviour Psychological Review, 64(6p1), 359.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ferrell, O. C., & Gresham, L. (1985). A contingency framework for understanding ethical decision making in marketing. Journal of Marketing, 49, 87–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Lu, H. P., Hsu, C. L., & Hsu, H. Y. (2005). An empirical study of the effect of perceived risk upon intention to use online applications. Information Management & Computer Security, 13(2), 106–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Davis, F. D. (1989). Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly, 13, 319–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Lai, K. K.-Y., & Zaichkowsky, J. L. (1999). Brand imitation: Do the Chinese have different views? Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 16(2), 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Lee, I. (2001). Culturally-based copyright systems?: The U.S. and Korea in conflict. Washington University Law Quarterly, 79(4), 1103–1159.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Arai, H. (2005). Intellectual property strategy in Japan. International Journal of Intellectual Property - Law, Economy and Management, 1, 5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Hynynen, J. (2013). Supporting invention and innovation in Central Finland: Inspiring IP awareness. World Patent Information, 35(2), 105–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    WIPO. (2006). Recent challenges for enforcement of intellectual property rights. Accessed 10 Aug 2018.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, Faculty of Science and EngineeringUniversity of Nottingham Ningbo ChinaNingboChina
  2. 2.Guizhou Normal UniversityGuizhouChina
  3. 3.Nottingham University Business School ChinaNingboChina
  4. 4.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  5. 5.Human Factors Research GroupUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations