“[T]he code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules” (Barbossa, Pirates of the Carribean, The Curse of the Black Pearl).
Attached find the comments of the Global Antitrust Institute of George Mason University (GAI) on the recently released public comment draft of NDRC’s IP Abuse Guidelines.
GAI’s excellent comments suggest that NDRC adopt a more compliance-based approach to ensure predictability to commercial actors. In its view, the Draft Guidelines do not explain the significance of each of four factors enumerated by NDRC or how they will be weighed in Anti-Monopoly Law (AML) agencies’ overall decision-making process. This approach allows the AML agencies broad discretion in enforcement decision-making without providing the guidance stakeholders need to protect incentives to innovate and transfer technology that could be subject to AML jurisdiction. GAI also recommends that the NDRC include throughout the Guidelines examples similar to those found in the U.S. antitrust agencies’ 1995 Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property to illustrate how the AML agencies will apply the basic principles. GAI also provided specific line-edit proposed edits on four provisions: general analysis, charging “unfairly high” royalties, discriminatory treatment, and injunctive relief.
Anyone keeping a list of all the legislative activity in this area is likely to be bewildered. I have previously released other comments of the GAI, including their recent comments on SAIC’s draft of the IP Abuse Guidelines, and an earlier draft of the NDRC IP Abuse Guidelines. I also commented on NDRC’s questionnaire regarding the guidelines, and published the ABA’s comment on the questionnaire. Activity on IP Abuse guidelines now stretches back several years. Indeed. there were already SAIC several drafts when I helped author a chapter on IP and China’s antimonopoly region in Antimonopoly Law and Practice in China (2011). Additionally, the AML itself is reportedly under consideration for revision by the NPC, and related legislation, a draft of the Anti-Unfair Competition Law, has reportedly recently been submitted to the State Council for its consideration (it was listed for preparatory work in the State Council’s 2015 legislation plan).
One saving grace: the final guidelines would likely need to be adopted by the Antimonopoly Commission which, according to the AML itself, is in charge of “organizing, coordinating, and guiding anti-monopoly work.” In the interim, the large number of drafts by different administrative agencies, lack of clear legislative or judicial guidance, the overhang of active enforcement activities and large damage/international administrative and judicial decisions (such as Qualcomm and Interdigital), the “exporting” of AML cases overseas (such as in Huawei vs. ZTE), SIPO’s effort to address standardization issues in the patent law revision, etc., all suggest that a situation where agencies could be using rulemaking to both address voids in legislation but also enhance their position in a multi-agency turf battle.
During my trip to China last week, I also repeatedly heard concerns expressed about current practice of Chinese agencies drafting legislation that may be used to enhance their administrative power or enhance their influence, with calls for greater direct legislation by the State Council or National People’s Congress (here’s one article on this topic involving educational legislative work). Despite the heavy work load of the State Council, it seems to me that the IP Abuse Guidelines are increasingly becoming more ripe for the already planned consideration by the Antimonopoly Commission or the State Council Legislative Affairs Office itself.
(Updated Jan. 21, 2016)