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Almost 150,000 IP Cases Reached First Instance in China

Issued: August 10 2017

China’s Supreme People’s Court has tried several IP cases, including Michael Jordan’s trademark cases, which were broadcast live on World IP Day 2016.

Statistics from the Chinese Supreme People’s Court’s show that courts nationwide concluded 147,000 IP cases in the first instance last year.


The court has approved the establishment of special IP adjudication divisions in the Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu Intermediate People’s Courts which can handle cross-regional IP cases. The IP adjudication division in Nanjing has jurisdiction over nine cities including Nanjing, Zhenjiang, Yangzhou, Taizhou, Yancheng, Huaian, Suqian, Xuzhou and Lianyungang; the division in Suzhou has jurisdiction over four cities including Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou and Nantong; Wuhan has jurisdiction over Hubei province and Chengdu has jurisdiction over Sichuan province.


As efforts to facilitate the innovationdriven strategy and improve the legal system for IP protection, the Supreme People’s Court formulated new judicial interpretations for hearing patent disputes, but trademark and copyright have been left out.


“Patents, trademarks and copyrights have long been separately governed by different authorities in China,” says Hui Wang, managing partner and patent attorney at Chofn Intellectual Property in Beijing. “It is also very commonplace for the judicial interpretations of patents, trademarks and copyright to be issued separately. In addition, innovation is widely regarded as more related to patents and less relevant in regards to trademarks and copyright. Therefore, when working on plans for an ‘innovation-oriented country,’ patents are usually given more attention than trademarks and copyright.”


The court has concluded several IP cases with a social impact and gained extensive attention, such as Michael Jordan’s trademark dispute.


Those cases have demonstrated the country’s determination for IP protection.


Michael Jordan’s trademark cases were tried by the vice president of the Supreme People’s Court on April 26, 2016, World IP Day, and were broadcast live. Both the trial process and decision were applauded by the public, domestic and abroad. “In recent years, several highprofile cases showed that China has been attaching greater importance to IP protection. It has become a routine for all courts to try important cases during World IP Day to further the public’s awareness of IP protection.” Wang says. “In actuality, the Michael Jordan’s trademark dispute cases were in regards to the protection of a celebrity’s right to his name, rather than about protection for well-known marks. Nevertheless, wellknown marks have long been enjoying stronger protection than marks which are not established as such.”


In the 2017 annual work report released by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Zhou Qiang, president and chief justice of the court, said that the courts will further give full play to the functions of the trial to sustain steadiness and to promote development in 2017. Zhou stressed that the courts nationwide will bring IP judicial functions into full play to stimulate innovation and encourage start-ups.


“According to the new judicial interpretations, the people’s courts will stimulate innovation and encourage start-ups in the following three aspects: shortening the period of litigation, remitting difficulty to prove and increasing compensation. For example, the court could reject a complaint directly after the invalidation procedure; the plaintiff could apply for court investigation upon obtaining a prima facie evidence and ask the defendant to provide relevant evidence; the compensation could be accounted according to the demand of the plaintiff when the defendant failed to provide required evidence,” says Wang.


The report stated that the prosecutorial system nationwide actively promoted scientific innovation in 2016 and issued 15 opinions to guarantee scientific innovation. Meanwhile, the prosecutorial system nationwide strives to eliminate IP crimes and has instituted public prosecutions against 21,505 suspects.


“In consideration of the government’s determination of protecting IPRs, the mentioned numbers are expected to increase in the future,” says Wang.


In 2016, 29 provinces, regions and municipalities including Hubei province, Yunnan province and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, have set administrative enforcement and criminal justice information sharing platforms against infringement.


“The information sharing platform is under construction and undergoing trial operation at present, and although the platform is still maturing, more provinces adopting such an approach in the future cannot be ruled out as a possibility,” adds Wang. 


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