Major IPR Events of China in 2017
2017 marks a busy year for China's IPR career. IPR creation, protection, management and utilization step into a new stage. IPR filings and grants make a new record. According to the latest statistics released by the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China, domestic invention patent grants totals 327,000, up 8.2% from a year earlier. It exactly represents the innovation capacity of the country.
In 2017, a series of key IPR events, including law and regulation, national policy, law enforcement and international cooperation, draw public attention. All efforts are made to make a sound IPR environment for domestic and international market players. At the turn of the year, IPR in China summarize key IPR events of great concern to stakeholders. Review is for better start!
On January 6, the Patent Prosecution Highway pilot program launched by IP5 Offices (EPO, JPO, KIPO, SIPO and USPTO) was announced to extend for another 3 years. Information about related requirements and procedures are available on the website of each office. This program, initially kicking off on January 6, 2014 and lasting three years, aims at allowing applicants to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently and also permitting each office to exploit the work previously done by other offices.
On January 11, the Supreme People’s Court held a press conference to release the Regulations of the Supreme People’s Court on Issues Involving Trial of Administrative Cases Concerning Authorization and Determination of Trademark Rights. It contains 31 pieces of judicial explanations and has taken effect on March 1, 2017. According to Article 5, names of public figures shall not be registered as trademarks.
On January 16, the MOU between SIPO and the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property was signed under the witness of China’s President Xi Jinping and Switzerland’s President Doris Leuthard. Against the background of enhanced innovative strategic partnership established by both sides, the MOU is expected to play an active role in their economic, technical and cultural cooperation. With regard to IPR, both sides will strengthen in-depth cooperation on IPR legislation and management, patent examination, talent training, documents exchange, IPR operation, public service and other fields.
On January 25, the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) released the Copyright Plan during the 13th Five-Year Plan Period, which identifies development goals and key tasks in such a period and makes a comprehensive planning over the national copyright initiatives. The planning consists of 26 key tasks, such as the revision of Copyright Law, the strengthening of copyright enforcement and supervision, the promotion of copyright legalization and the optimization of copyright collective management. It also introduces various indicators to value the performance of copyright authorities and agencies, including registrations of works and computer software.
Since January 2017, as a change in the publication of patent statistic data, SIPO has only made public the number of patent applications monthly. Compared with patent acceptances (patent applications received by SIPO), the number of applications, with prescribed fees paid and qualified for initial examination, is more authentic and objective in reflecting the general conditions of patent filings. In 2016, patent acceptances record 3.465 million, while patent applications total 3.2 million.
On February 16, the trademark and brand strategy has been formally proposed in the Plan for Market Regulation during the 13th Five-Year Plan Period, said Yuan Xilu, Director General of the Comprehensive Department of SAIC. Accordingly, it is required to guide enterprises to play a leading role in improving trademark protection awareness, deepen the reform toward trademark registration facilitation and strengthen trademark protection.
On February 19, Beijing Business Today revealed that 20 million commodities on the Alibaba platform were claimed of IPR infringement. 49% of sellers receiving IPR complaints appealed successfully. Interestingly, IPR complaints filed by 1,531 complainants only accounted for 0.59% of the total but 80% of those being successfully appealed by sellers, reflecting a phenomenon of “malicious complaining”. To prevent this, Alibaba is considering introducing a tiering mechanism for IPR complaints through which different responding mechanisms and resources can be allocated for each kind of complaint and the threshold of proof for hostile complainants can be raised, so as to decrease the loss of sellers and effectively protect the rights and interests of justified complainants.
On February 27, China’s first IPR Evaluation and Certification Center was set up in Beijing. Built on the global patent database and the pool of patent examination professionals owned by the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), the Center specializes in providing IPR evaluation and assessment service and IPR financial service in a professional, accurate and authoritative way.
On March 4, several CPPCC National Committee members proposed to strengthen IPR protection. Prime Minister Li Keqiang responded that it’s of great necessity for Chinese government to maintain a fair market environment and enhance IPR and other property protection. “IPR powered products should be protected from counterfeiting and infringement. It is never allowed that bad money drives out good money,” Li emphasized.
From March 22 to 26, Prime Minister Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Australia, where he and his counterparts achieved a series of outcomes in intergovernmental and commercial cooperation, covering trade and investment, innovation, agriculture, intellectual property and other fields.
Since April 1, the revised Patent Examination Guidelines has taken effect. The new revision brings changes to the following provisions: I. Section 4.2 of Chapter 1 of Part II; II. Sections 2, 3 and 5.2 of Chapter 9 of Part II; III. Item (2) of Section 3.4 of Chapter 10 of Part II, which is moved into the newly added Section 3.5; IV. Sections 4.2, 4.3.1, 4.6.2 and4.6.3 of Chapter 3 of Part IV; V. Section 5.2 of Chapter 4 of Part V; and VI. Section7.4.2, 7.4.3 and 7.5.2 of Chapter 7 of Part V.
From April 20 to 21, Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme People’s Court (SPP) of China, led a delegation to Geneva of Switzerland for a visit of WTO and WIPO. “China is advancing the ‘Belt and Road’ construction and exploring to build free trade zones with countries and regions along the ‘Belt and Road’, said Zhou. “SPP is willing to enhance cooperation with WTO and draw lessons from WTO’s useful experience in the resolution of international trade disputes, so as to improve the investment dispute resolution mechanism of the ‘Belt and Road’, protect the rights and interests of investors and promote the legalization of the mechanism,” Zhou added.
On April 24, the People’s Court released the Outline of Judicial Protection of Intellectual Property (2016-2020) to cope with new situations and requirements of IPR protection. Song Xiaoming, Head of the IPR Tribunal of SPP, said the Outline incorporates a set of significant measures about IPR judicial protection, including the establishment of a coordinative and open IPR protection policy system and a balanced IPR court system.
On May 14-15, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held. Commissioner of SIPO Shen Changyu signed the Agreement Between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the World Intellectual Property Office on IPR Cooperation along the “Belt and Road” with Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO. Reportedly, it was the first document concerning IPR protection along the “Belt and Road” signed by the Chinese government and an international organization, marking a comprehensive and in-depth cooperation centering on the construction of the “Belt and Road” and a promotion of IPR development in countries and regions along the “Belt and Road”.
On May 16, the State of Council agreed on the issuance of the Key Tasks on National Crackdown on IPR Infringements and the Production and Sales of Counterfeit and Shoddy Commodities in 2017, which includes the following eight tasks: I. Constantly advancing governance in key fields; II. Vigorously strengthening the routine regulation of goods quality; III. Intensifying the work of crackdown on IPR infringement; IV. Strengthening criminal fighting and judicial protection; V. Fully promoting cross-regional and cross-sectoral coordination; VI. Strengthening legal system construction; VII. Actively promoting social co-governance; and VIII. Increasing international communication and cooperation.
On June 23, as examined and approved by the Joint Inter-ministerial Meeting of the State Council for Implementing the Intellectual Property Strategy, the Promotion Plan for the in-Depth Implementation of the National Intellectual Property Strategy and the Acceleration of the Building of a Powerful Intellectual Property Country in 2017 was issued for implementation. The Promotion Plan identifies 5 key tasks covering 103 specific measures. The 5 key tasks are as follows: I. Deepening reform of intellectual property sector; II. Strictly protecting intellectual property; III. Promoting the creation and utilization of intellectual property; IV. Deepening international communication and cooperation on intellectual property; and V. Strengthening organization, implementation and guarantee.
On July 17, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out at the 16th meeting of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs that property protection, especially intellectual property protection, was a key factor in creating a favorable business environment. Xi raised the following requirements for IPR: I. Improving laws and regulations concerning IPR protection as well as IPR examination quality and efficiency; II. Accelerating the development of IPR protection system in emerging field; III. Imposing heavier penalty on IPR infringers and making them pay a highly price; and VI. Inspiring the enthusiasm and initiative of natural persons and legal persons holding IPRs and encouraging them to raise property awareness and use legal weapons to protect their rights.
Since July 1, the PPH pilot program between China and Egypt has been launched, lasting for 2 years. Under the program, Egyptian applicants can file PPH requests with SIPO, and vice versa.
On August 1, the Administrative Measures for Patent Prioritized Examination issued SIPO took effect. The Measures expand the scope of prioritized examination, covering invention patent applications in substantial examination stage, applications of utility model, applications of industrial design, reexamination of these three kinds of patent applications and invalidation cases concerning all three kinds of patents. In addition, it improves the applicable conditions of prioritized examination, further simplifies prioritized examination formalities, optimizes prioritized examination procedures and clarifies situations where a prioritized examination needs to cease and revert to regular application procedures. Reportedly, prioritized examinations are applicable to those involving Chinese key industries or quickly updated products.
On August 30, Prime Minister Li Keqiang presided over a State Council executive meeting, deciding to promote a series of reproducible reform measures which are supportive of innovation. The meeting identified several major tasks, including promotion of IPR protection and provision of comprehensive services combining patent prioritized examination, rights determination and protection based on the efforts of IPR fast advocacy centers.
On August 31, the MOU between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan was signed under the witness of China’s President Xi Jinping and Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon. The Commissioner of the State Intellectual Property of China Shen Changyu and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Tajikistan Hikmatullozoda signed the MOU on behalf of both governments. According to the MOU, both parties recognize the important role of intellectual property in promoting innovation, strengthening competitive advantages for countries and enterprises, encouraging economic and social development and promoting mutual beneficial cooperation between two countries in economic, education, technical and cultural fields. Both parties will strengthen cooperation on high-level dialogue, patent examination and grant, IPR protection, utilization, protection and administration, promotion of IPR protection awareness, talents training, patent document and data exchange and others.
On September 18, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce released the Report on the Fight against IPR infringement and Counterfeiting by National Industrial and Commercial Authorities and Market Regulators in the First Half of 2017. The whole system put 11,788 trademark infringement and counterfeit cases valued about 126,378,000 yuan on file for investigation and transferred 63 cases to judicial organs.
From September to December 2017, the Action Plan on Protection of Intellectual Property Rights of Foreign-invested Enterprises focusing on nationwide crackdown on illegal and criminal acts involving infringement of intellectual property rights of foreign-invested enterprises was jointly released by 12 authorities, including the Office of the National Leading Group on the Fight Against IPR Infringement and Counterfeiting, State Intellectual Property Office, the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce, Administration of Customs, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, State Administration of Press, the Publication, Radio, Film and Television, State Forestry Administration, State Post Bureau and the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
From September 1, the Patent Prosecution Highway pilot program between SIPO a and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) extends for another two years, ending on August 31, 2019. The new PPH pilot program adds PCT-PPH, allowing applicants to file PPH requests with SIPO or IPOS by using the results of PCT patent applications. Relevant requirements and procedures are subject to the newly updated SIPO-IPOS Guidelines.
On October 31, the Electronic Commerce Law of the People’s Republic of China (draft) was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) for second reading. The second draft further regulates the behaviors of operators on electronic commerce platforms and strengthens the liabilities of such platforms in combating IPR infringement and counterfeiting arising on the platforms. In terms of intellectual property protection, the second draft requires platforms must take proper measures, such as deleting, blocking and disconnecting links and terminating transactions or services, provided that the platforms know or should have known that vendors on the platform are violating other parties’ intellectual property rights. If no such necessary measures are taken, the platforms are also subject to joint and several liability with the infringing party on the platform. If a platform fails to take necessary measures in a timely manner after receiving a notice of infringement from an intellectual property rights owner, the platform should bear joint and several liability with the infringing party on the platform for the expanded part of the loss.
On November 4, the newly revised Anti-Unfair Competition Law of the People's Republic of China was adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. It will take effect on January 1, 2018. The revised law brings significant regulatory changes to the following five kinds of acts: confusion, including free-riding; commercial bribery; false statements in advertising; infringement of trade secrets and unfair competition via internet technology.
On November 9, Tao Kaiyuan, Vice President of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), said it is urgent to explore the establishment of a scientifically reasonable IPR damage compensation system, value the learning and absorbing of international experiences for localization, give full play to the role of (Guangdong) Base of IPR Judicial Protection and Market Value Research of SPC and expand its influence.
On November 14, the Opinions on Deepening the Reform of Trademark Registration Facilitation and Effectively Raising Efficiency of Trademark Registration (hereinafter referred to as “Opinions”) was issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. According to the Opinions, the pendency of examination concerning various trademark businesses will be reduced by the end of 2018, that is, -the period of insurance of acceptance notification of trademark registration application will be shortened to 1 month; -the period of examination of trademark registration will be shortened to 6 months; -the period of examination of trademark transfer will be shortened to 4 months; -the period of examination of trademark modification or renewal will be shortened to 2 months; and -the delay period of trademark search will be shortened to 2 months.
On November 22, the State Council executive meeting made arrangements over the protection of property rights, reflecting the determination of China in protecting property in accordance with law. According to Xi Jinping’s report at the 19th CPC National Congress, improvement of property rights system will be one of key tasks in China’s economic system reform. As a key part of establishing a modern economic system and improving the social market economy system, the improvement of property rights system and full protection of various property rights are of significance in helping promote the vigor of market entities in entrepreneurship and innovation, foster and build up new driving forces, promote opening up and advance a sustainable and sound economic development.
Since December 1, the Requirements on IPR Management for Equipment Manufacturers (GJB 9158-2017), mainly drafted by the National Defense Intellectual Property Office of Equipment Development Department under the Central Military Commission, has come into force. It is China's first national military standard for IPR management in the field of equipment manufacturing. Based on the national standard titled IPR Management Specifications for Companies, the Requirements provides the process-oriented IPR management models for equipment manufacturers, guiding them to build, operate, check and improve the IPR management system and clarifying general requirements for IPR obtainment, maintenance, utilization and protection.
On December 17, China and Russia jointly set up an IPR center “IP-Silk Road”, which is implemented by the State Intellectual Property Office of China and its counterpart.