Here is an unofficial translation of the English language translation of the Action plan of the National IP Strategy (2014 -2020) (NIPS), about which I previously blogged. A wordcloud from this English translation is above – with an obvious focus on “management,” “strengthening,” “promotion” and “enforcement” and some mentioning of the “market.” As the NIPS was released just weeks after the Fourth Plenum, it make a useful point of contrast on where China is headed on IP, including IP-related rule of law. An annotated version of the Fourth Plenum decision is available here for comparison. For those with short attention span, or a strong visual orientation a wordcloud of the Fourth Plenum decision is found at the end of this post. In short, the Fourth Plenum is emphasizing the “market,” “law” and “enforcement.” The NIPS, however, seems to be all about strengthening the IP system.
The NIPS contains some interesting general goals, particularly in terms of developing IP intensive industries, including developing Chinese patent pools and Chinese cultural industries. promoting IP services, integration of IP into state science and technology plans, and expanding cooperation. Some sticky issues, such as involving China’s multiple track system of protecting geographical indications will be changed into a unified system of some kind. The NIPS also calls for a Chinese-type Section 337 remedy, as was originally contemplated in China’s Foreign Trade Law, ie., to “carry out investigations on infringement of Chinese IPR by imported products and other unfair competition acts in import trade.”
Regrettably, the NIPS keeps some of the failed metrics of its first implementation in place. Patent filings will increase from 4 per 10,000 people in 2013, to 14 per 10,000 in 2020. This means that SIPO will be receiving in excess of 6 million patent applications per year. In an implicit recognition of the problem I have noted that patent maintenance is at least as important as patent applications, the NIPS also wants to increase the average maintenance period for invention patents from 5.8 years to 9.0 by 2020. However this data point doesn’t resolve the problem of low maintenance rates for utility models and designs and it is to be hoped that in all cases, maintenance rates expand due to growth in the market and not due to the kinds of artificial subsidies that already plague China’s patent applications. Among the market oriented targets, export growth in IP rights is also slated to grow from 1.36 billion USD in 2013 to 8 billion USD in 2020. Commercialization-related goals reflect the goals of the Third Plenum, to increase IP utilization generally.
Here’s what the NIPS says about the judiciary:
“Strengthen.. the criminal law enforcement and the judicial protection of IP. We will intensify the investigation of IP crime cases and supervise the handling of key cases; persist in the combination of fight and prevention to gradually bring special campaigns onto the track of normalized law enforcement; strengthen the linkup between the administrative law enforcement of IP and criminal justice and intensify the handover of cases of suspected crimes; strengthen the trail of IP-violating criminal cases according to law, intensify the application of pecuniary penalty to deprive infringers of the capability and conditions for committing crimes again; strengthen the civil and administrative trial of IP to create a good innovation environment; provide human, financial and material guarantee and support for the establishment and operation of IP court according to the plan for establishment thereof.”
The NIPS seems to be following the lead of other agencies in judicially-related efforts. In administrative law, it also supports the State Council’s effort to promote administrative transparency, including extending it to credit reporting systems:
“We will … solidly push forward the disclosure of information on cases of administrative punishment of IP infringement to deter law violators and, in the meantime, promote standardized, just and civilized law enforcement by enforcers; incorporate the disclosure of case information into the scope of statistical notification of the efforts of cracking down on infringement and counterfeits and strengthen examination; explore the establishment of the credit standard related to IP protection to include acts of mala fide infringement in the social credit evaluation system, disclose the relevant information to credit reporting agencies and raise the social credit level for IP protection.”
However, regarding IPR-related commercial rule of law, one needs to focus a bit more on the Fourth Plenum. Here are some of the significant judicial reforms that will affect IP:
“Reform systems for judicial organs’ personnel and finance management, explore the implementation of separating courts’ and procuratorates’ judicial administrative management affairs and adjudication or procuratorate powers.
The Supreme People’s Court will establish circuit courts, to hearing major administrative and civil cases that cross administrative regions. Explore the establishment of People’s Courts and people’s procuratorates that cross administrative districts and handle cross-regional cases…
Reform systems for court acceptance of cases, change the case filing review system to a case filing registration system, and in cases that should be accepted by the People’s Courts, ensure parties’ procedural rights by requiring filing when there is a case, and requiring acceptance where there is a lawsuit…
Perfect systems for witnesses and experts appearing in court, ensure that courtroom hearings play a decisive role in ascertaining the facts, identifying the evidence, protecting the right of action, and adjudicating impartially.”
More broadly, here’s what the Fourth Plenum says about IP:
“Perfect a property rights system and an intellectual property rights system that encourage innovation, and structures and mechanisms to stimulate the transformation of scientific and technological achievements. Strengthen the construction of a legal system for the market, compile a civil code, … stimulate the free circulation, fair exchange and equal use of commercial products and factors, strengthen and improve macro-level coordination and market supervision according to the law, oppose monopolies, stimulate reasonable competition, safeguard a market order of fair competition. ”
Conclusion: It should come as no surprise that the Fourth Plenum, although more general, may more greatly impact IP-related judicial / legislative issues. Based on a recent trip to Beijing, I understand that work is already underway to draft IP provisions of a civil code. The new chief judge of the Supreme People’s Court IP tribunal (Song), the new Chief Judge of the Beijing IP Court (Su), the new Vice President of the SPC with authority over the IP tribunal (Tao) all have civil law backgrounds. In addition, consideration is being given to the specialized IP courts having a circuit court type role. New technology assessors in the IP courts will affect the way that evidence is considered and will likely enhance the independence and professionalism of the courts.
Will the Fourth Plenum further push China towards a more market-oriented approach to IP? I personally believe that for the NIPS to work effectively, the decisive factors has to be the market. Metrics for IP creation are meaningless unless there is utilization of IP. Hopefully the Fourth Plenum will push the NIPS implementation even further in a market orientation, which is a key factor of the Fourth Plenum, as this wordcloud shows…