Published on 06/08 2017  Source: China Daily


Zhong Chunyan, president of Hainan Yeguo Foods Co Ltd, started her business in 1996 with a patent on the production of edibles by fermenting coconut juice. Now, the technology has bred a giant industry with annual output value of 2 billion yuan ($294.37 million) and created thousands of jobs in Hainan. Zhong shares her experience in patent management and entrepreneurship with China Daily reporter Li You.

Why did you decide to conduct the experiment in fermentation of coconut water?

In 1994 when I was working in the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences, I learned that the whole body of a coconut is treasured in the food processing industry except the juice within, as it was very hard to preserve it using conventional methods. The abandoned coconut juice flowed into the land, causing pollution to the environment and leaving plenty of land unable to be cultivated. Therefore, I decided to explore the utilization of coconut juice. Coconut juice is rich in sugars, organic acids, vitamins and minerals, which are all suitable for the growth of microorganisms. I started to test out the nutrients and characteristics of coconut juice, to isolate bacteria that can produce cellulose from coconut water.

How was the starting stage of your experiment?

I can never forget the hardships during that period. I was obsessed with the research, like I was under a spell. I avidly carried out my research work, forgetting days and nights. Only beside my microscope could I feel the vitality of life and hazy hope. After countless failures and tests, I caught sight of a block of white translucent solid growing out of the nutrient fluid. I knew we had made it. I boiled it immediately with sugar, the taste was tender, smooth, crisp and so awesome. I couldn't believe we finally achieved success after so many years of research.

Why did you decide to apply for a patent?

My team developed the production process, facilities and necessary equipment to industrialize the production of the edible fiber. And after several years, we applied patents for each of them. With the development of China's economy, the legal system and social security system were also evolving. The technological achievements of production have become increasingly significant. As an entrepreneur, I perceived this at an early stage. Our country set up a national patent protection mechanism, reflecting respect for and protection of technical personnel and encouraging them to commit to their research.

What does the patent mean to your company and your team?

Intellectual property is not only the embodiment of scientific and technological innovations, but also their security and a powerful weapon for participation in market competition. Starting from a small factory with only a few workers, our company has grown into an enterprise with 200 million yuan in yearly output. We have taken many steps forward based on our constant innovation.

In what aspects do you think China could improve its patent management system?

In the United States, the maintenance fee is decided by the profit generated by the patent and brand. Compared with other major global intellectual property organizations, China's patent system has no correlation between the maintenance cost of a patent and the possible income brought by the patent. The isolation of the two is contradictory to the intention of establishing a patent fee. I suggest the government invest more in patent management to adjust and improve our financial security mechanisms and guarantee the protection of intellectual property.