SPECIALIZED IP COURTS ABOUT TO LAUNCH IN THREE CITIES – AND ARE THEY GOOD FOR FOREIGNERS?

Recent Chinese efforts at developing specialized IP courts and in promoting greater judicial independence suggest that the system may significantly improve in the years ahead. According to press reports, some of these efforts may take final form at the 10th meeting of the 27th Session of the Chairman’s Council of the 12 Session of NPC Standing Committee which will be held on August 25 through 30. At that meeting, the NPC Standing Committee will review the bill submitted by the Supreme People’s Court which is the Draft Resolution of SPC to Establish IPR Courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Why specialized IP courts? On August 12, 2014, Deputy Chief Judge Jin Kesheng (金克胜), of the third civil (IPR) division of the Supreme People’s Court, said: “In recently years, the speed of increasing IP court was grow slow smoothly, however, there are more and more the new style cases and complicated cases involving foreign parties so that these cases were difficult to judge and the attention from the public to these cases were enhanced. The number of case filed at the Supreme Court was increasing, especially in patent cases with more complicated technology and huge market value and interest. Additionally, the administrative cases are growing rapidly, the proportion of cases involving the fields of medicine, electronic, telecommunication patents are increasing. The proportion of cases in competition cases involving network technology and new business models is large, business secrets and counterfeiting cases continue to increase, and the Supreme People’s Court is hearing antimonopoly cases for the first time… Therefore, this year the Central Committee of the Party and some related departments did some investigations with regard to establishing a specialized IP courts…”

 China has had specialized IP tribunals (ting 庭), beginning with an initial experiment in 1993 in Beijing. Currently there are about 3,000 judges in sit these tribunals. In addition, there are 560 tribunals throughout the country, including basic, level, intermediate, high court and supreme people’s court tribunals or divisions.   In recent years, China has been experimenting with more basic courts (e.g. Yi Wu People’s Court and Kun Shan People’s Court) hearing IP cases including patent cases. Historically, these tribunals had sometimes been called “No. 3 Civil Tribunals” (e.g. No.3 Civil Tribunal of Shanghai Higher People’s Court, No.3 Civil Tribunal of Pudong District People’s Court), “No. 5 Civil Tribunals” (No.5 Civil Tribunal of Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People’s Court, No.5 Civil Tribunal of Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People’s Court) or IP Tribunals (IP Tribunal of Zhuhai People’s Court). Increasingly these tribunals may combine civil IP jurisdiction with administrative review and criminal jurisdiction (“three in one tribunals”).

 As civil enforcement is the lion’s share of judicial IP litigation, the civil experience of these judges has in a sense helped also to develop the capacity of China’s judiciary to handle criminal and administrative litigation. In addition, by combining civil, criminal and administrative jurisdiction there is a greater likelihood of consistent handling of matters that may cross jurisdictional boundaries such as use of administrative evidence in civil cases, providing civil compensation in criminal matters, referring administrative or civil matters to criminal litigation, or handling patent and trademark validity matters in conjunction with an ongoing civil case. Today all of these matters may be handled in one tribunal.

 What prior work has been done in this area by the Chinese government? While specialized IPR courts have been talked about for some time, institutional improvements in the IPR tribunals were set forth as a national goal in the Outline of the National IP Strategy (2008) which was coordinated by SIPO. The NIPS stated “Studies need to be carried out on establishing special tribunals to handle civil, administrative or criminal cases involving intellectual property”. The SPC took an important step in this direction in July 2009, when it directed the civil IP tribunals in the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court to handle validity matters on appeal from China’s patent and trademark offices. (最高人民法院关于专利、商标等授权确权类知识产权行政案件审理分类的规定).

 The impetus to develop specialized IP courts in China took an even greater leap forward back on November 12, 2013, at the Third Plenum Session of Eleventh Communist Party Central Committee (the “Third Plenum”). The Third Plenum set as a goal to “explore the establishment of intellectual property court(s).” Since that time, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Zhengzhou had started to apply for establishing the IP court with the Supreme Court. On March 10, 2014, Zhou Qiang(周强), the President of the SPC discussed the work schedule of 2014 and said that the Supreme Court would promote to establish the specialized IP court. On July 9, 2014, the Supreme Court at its press conference outlining judicial reforms for the Supreme Court (2014-2018) discussed establishing Specialized IP courts at places where IP cases are concentrated. Professor Tao Xinliang (陶鑫良) had proposed establishing the IP Intermediate Court at some places where IP cases concentrated to judge the civil IP cases and administrative IP cases of the first instance and the civil IP cases, administrative IP cases of the second instance and some criminal IP cases. (Prof. Tao Xinliang 陶鑫良<Some thoughts on Establishment of Specialized IP Court建立知识产权法院的若干思考> Madame Tao Kaiyuan (陶凯元) , a Vice President of the Supreme Court, and a former Director General of the Guangdong IP Bureau (where she likely worked with Vice Premier Wang Yang(汪洋)) has also said that the SPC should continue to promote three-in-one IP tribunals.

Why might China be adding a new emphasis on a specialized IP court in additional to combined tribunals? A specialized IP court may promote and improve the civil judicial enforcement system by providing more resources, promote the independence of the judiciary, and provide for more training of judges, particularly on technical patent matters. The judges of a specialized IP court might be even more professional and autonomous. They might be better able to handle the administrative cases, criminal cases and civil cases at the same time. Like other specialized courts (e.g maritime, military, railway court), civil/criminal and administrative jurisdiction would also combined, reflecting the subject matter expertise of the judges in that court and likely reducing subject matter and venue conflicts for IP litigation.

 The SPC has not yet published the detailed program for implementation of specialized IP courts. In addition, we have heard little about important areas of the IP tribunals’ jurisdiction which are not as directly related to IP, such as antimonopoly law, unfair competition and licensing, and whether these areas will also remain within the specialized court jurisdiction. We assume they will be, and would actually hope that other IP-related areas could be specifically included (such as consumer protection, substandard products, and geographical indications). However, we have seen nothing to date discussing these areas.

Will a specialized IPR court be good for foreigners? Most foreign rights holders have continuing concern with local protectionism and political influence in IP adjudication. Beijing, which appears to be a focus for development of a specialized IP court is the jurisdiction that appears to hear the most foreign cases. As we have previously blogged, foreign parties are involved in approximately 47% of their administrative appeal docket (which is primarily based in Beijing); or about 1349 cases, nearly equal to the number of infringement cases in 2013 of 1429. Hopefully, giving the Beijing courts more independence and confirming their “three in one” approach will provide greater judicial autonomy for the Beijing courts.

One concern is whether specialized IP courts will indeed function in a more independent manner than IP tribunals. The US experience with our specialized national patent court, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, has generally been that the CAFC has some impact on correcting local biases at the trial court level, including possible anti-foreign jury bias. This is borne out by data which shows that in general, reversal rates in favor of foreigners is higher at the CAFC than reversal rates in favor of domestic entities.

 U.S.: Patent Infringement Civil Litigation Appellate Win Rates

 

Overall

Foreign Companies

Patent Owner Win Rate

25%

27%

Accused Infringer Win Rate

75%

78%

Source:Paul M. Janicke & LiLan Ren, Who Wins Patent Infringement Cases?, 34 AIPLA Q.J. 1 (2006).

However, according to data from the CIELA database (www.ciela.cn), second instance patent appeals in China generally show an inclination to support the Chinese domestic party against the foreigner.

China : Invention Patent Litigation Data

 

All Plaintiff

Foreign

Domestic

1st instance win rate

73%

78%

72%

2nd instance win rate

52%

40%

52%

Overturn rate

19%

30%

17%

Mean compensation

RMB 439,614

RMB 230,827

RMB 525,939

Medium compensation

RMB 100,000

RMB 125,000

RMB 100,000

Duration

8.2m

11.8m

6.9m

(Courtesy of Tim Smith of Rouse & Co. )

Why might appellate IP courts or tribunals behave differently in each country? First, the CAFC is a national court, not a regional or local court. In this sense, it may be more accountable to national law and reputation than local courts. The CAFC under former Chief Judge Rader had in fact been a leading global proponent of national specialized IP courts. Second, the CAFC has a different jurisdictional role. It does not retry cases, rather it hears appeals. In addition, it hears both patent validity and infringement matters in one court. Moreover, its decisions on matters of law are binding on lower courts. As such, it has more authority in deciding legal matters, and in instructing lower courts on proper adjudication. For example, the CAFC had taken an active role in addressing venue issues at the E.D Texas on patent litigation issues. A third reason is found in China’s political situation. In general, Chinese courts are much less independent than US courts. Local Chinese courts, particularly in remote areas, may also tend to be even less accountable to national law and policy. Second instance Chinese courts may be more susceptible to receiving national policy directives and may therefore be more susceptible to national political influence in adjudicating disputes. Moreover, local statutes enacted by local people congress are at a higher political hierarchy than national administrative rules (部门规章). The local political congresses that enact these statutes also appoint judges. When a second instance case is heard, for example, in a provincial high court, there may in fact be a problem of more direct political influence through political actors in the provincial capital.

The limited data available to date suggests to me that while specialized IP courts have promise, their potential impact will also be affected by national judicial reform efforts and may continue to be constrained by existing limitations in the political independence of the Chinese judicial structure. As Susan Finder has noted in her blog, there are several efforts under way to address some of these systemic issues in the Chinese judicial system, which may also bear promise for Chinese IP adjudication. In sum, specialized IP courts may not be the panacea that foreigners might otherwise seek in minimizing anti-foreign bias in local adjudication in China, but I do believe they offer some hope for a better and stronger judiciary.

 By Mark Cohen, with Ms. Yao Yao of Fordham Law School (LLM Candidate, 2015).

Putting It Together: Some English Language Resources on Copyright Developments

The following are some English language reference materials for those who are closely following Chinese copyright developments, which can also be useful for those attending Fordham’s conference on July 25. Continue reading

China Copyright Conference – July 25, Fordham Law School

The Intellectual Property Law Institute at Fordham Law School, directed by Prof. Hugh Hansen, will host a conference on Chinese copyright law and policy, July 25, 2012. Topics will include:

  • Recent developments in substantive law
  • Sports broadcasting
  • Internet regulation
  • Judicial trends
  • Copyright, design, and conflicts with other trends

The Conference will be directed by Prof. Mark Cohen, and will take place in Room 302 of the Law School, 140 W. 62nd St., New York City. It will run from 10:30 to about 2:00, with lunch included. There will be no cost to attendees.  However, reservations are requested.

Continue reading

Understanding China’s New Environment for Intellectual Property

On April 11th, Fordham Law School held its first China focused IP Conference, “Understanding China’s New Environment for Intellectual Property”.  The program covered a range of issues, from patenting trends, to challenges in design protection, and intellectual property protection challenges for cloud computing in China, with mixed panels of academics, practitioners, judges and government officials from both countries. Continue reading

Understanding China’s New Environment for Intellectual Property

After months of planning and preparation, Fordham’s first China focused IP Conference is only two short days away! Registration has been climbing in the last few days, and it is still open.

With the range of issues covered and many notable featured speakers from the U.S. and Chinese government and judiciary, academia and practitioners, the program promises to be exciting. As April 11th approaches, the speaker biographies and their papers have been posted online as well.

We look forward to learning about these issues from the distinguished panel and their varied perspectives.

Other perspectives on Apple/Proview

Last week, we had a group of Chinese IP officials visiting Fordham – from Chinese Customs, a local Administration for Industry and Commerce and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate  – it was a perfect combination of officials to ask about the Apple / Proview case from the perspective of different Chinese government agencies, other than the courts. Continue reading

Confronting Chinese Innovation Mercantilism

Interest in and discussion about innovation practices in China continues.  Here’s another upcoming conference, which sounds like it could elicit controversy, from ITIF (the Information Technology and Innovation Forum): “Confronting Chinese Innovation Mercantilism“.  According to the press release “China is unabashedly seeking to favor Chinese-owned firms in order to dominate practically all sectors, especially the higher value-added, innovation-based sectors. Yet, the Washington consensus response can be summed up in one word: patience.”.

A separate stream of discussion in Washington has been on Chinese state-owned enterprises, which ITIF alludes to, including hearings yesterday on Capitol Hill on the role of SOE’s [State Owned Enterprises].  Prof. Curtis Milhaupt from Columbia has also written an excellent paper on this topic describing the organization of SOE’s, but without any strong proscriptive language. Prof. Milhaupt also lectured at Fordham on Feb. 16.

In the long run, there is only way forward on all these issues: informed, principled, and respectful engagement.  It isn’t a simple matter of patience as the ITIF study suggests.  Hopefully serious programs and reports will help us all pursue a reasonable way of engaging China.