Understanding attitudes towards intellectual property from the perspective of design professionals

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.