IPHouse And IP Litigation Strategies

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  (IPHouse data on foreign-related IP cases at the Beijing IP court)

A Chinese judge recently told me that amongst the most important developments in the Chinese judiciary in recent years has been the increasing transparency of the courts.  I agree.  The increased transparency of the courts has also been noted by Susan Finder in her excellent blog.

One of the significant developments this year has been in the availability of value-added database services that utilize the underlying case data. IPHouse is a new database, set up this year, which provides comprehensive search capabilities for over 200,000 IP-related cases in China to date. It is operated under the guidance of former SIPO Commissioner Gao Lulin, a partner at the Beijing East IP  law firm.

IPHouse has prepared a 110 page English language statistical analysis of the work of the Beijing IP Court in 2015, available here.   IPHouse has told me that the report is prepared at the request of the Beijing IP court as part of its statistical review of the court’s activities.  It includes extensive data on types of cases, practices of individual judges and foreign-related activities, and summaries of cases.

As another sample of their work, regarding the important role of the Beijing IP Court in reviewing Chinese Trademark administrative decisions, IPHouse also prepared a brief report that shows from 2011 – 2015, there are 5,121 cases involved plaintiffs from foreign countries and Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan regions, where 1,010 administrative decision were reversed by the courts, accounts for 44.81% of all reversed cases. The rate of reversing cases involving foreign and Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan region plaintiffs is 19.72%. This is 1.89% higher than the average reversal rate.  IPHouse’s snapshot data of overall foreign IP cases shows a foreign plaintiff success rate in the courts of 70%.    Together these data suggest that foreigners have are faring well in the courts in China.  Finally, IPHouse has also prepared a short statistical summary of patent and trademark administrative decisions adjudicated at the IP Court, available here.

For US and Chinese counsel seeking to more accurately assess litigation risks and opportunities, IPNow builds on the existing IPHouse database. It provides search results in five different categories – courts, judges, agencies, attorneys, and parties. The search results are presented in various graphical charts depending on the search criteria, as follows:

  1. Courts – Collects judgments from over 800 courts across the country

–          Provides historical cases, length of trial, support rate of claimed damages, etc.

  1. Judges – Collects over 9,000 judges’ opinions

–          Provides the number of cases tried, case decisions, rate of support of claimed damages, etc.

  1. Agencies – Collects from over 29,000 intellectual property agencies

–          Provides winning rate from historical data.

–          Each agent can be compared with other agencies in more than 20 different selections.

  1. Attorneys – Collects from over 100,000 attorneys’ information

–          Provides winning rate from historical data, result of cases represented, and adversary party’s statistics.

  1. Parties – Collects over 148,000 parties

–          Provides party who filed the cases, the agency and agents hired, winning rate, and support from the court for the claimed damages.

Please contact IPHouse directly for further information.

Notorious Markets, Alibaba and the JSP

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At the end of 2016, a trio of reports are being released by the US government all of which reflect upon the IP environment in China

The first one to be released was the Joint Strategic Plan of the IP Enforcement Coordinator at the White House for the years 2017-2019 (released Dec. 12, 2016) (152 pp).  The second is the Notorious Markets Report of the US Trade Representative, was released yesterday, December 21, 2016 (22 pp).  A third report on China’s WTO compliance, hearings for which were held earlier in 2016.  This annual report is due shortly.  The last report focuses on WTO issues (including IP), while the first two focus on IP issues (including China).

The Joint Strategic Plan singles out China’s “weak protection of intellectual property” (p. 4), relying upon a variety of sources of data, including USTR reports, US Customs seizures, “massive online and physical markets” , business survey data, antitrust concerns, and other sources.    The report also notes China’s legislative efforts to reform its IP laws, the positive role of the National Leading Group, and the “welcome” development of the specialized IP court pilot project.   

The report also singles out US engagement with China on cyber theft as well as US efforts more generally to “mitigate the theft of US trade secrets.” As I have pointed out elsewhere, trade secret misappropriation is a complicated area, where civil, criminal and administrative remedies can be improved and there can be close links to industrial policy.

The Notorious Markets report has gotten the most attention because Alibaba’s Taobao has now been placed back on this list. Taobao is not the only market with a Chinese link.  Other sites included Gongchangcom, which reportedly sells counterfeits, including counterfeit security acts to attach to counterfeit merchandise; Nanjing Imperiosus Technology Co., Ltd (also operating as Domainerschoice.com), which provides services to illegal online pharmacies;  and several physical markets.  These markets include the Baiyun Leather Goods Market (Guangzhou), Jing Long Pan Foreign Trade Garment Market (Guangzhou), Chenghai District Market (Shantou), Wu Ai Market (Shenyang), Cheng Huang Cheng Intenraitonal Auto Parts Market (Beijing), and the Silk Market (in Beijing).

The reports notes that Alibaba’s leadership has underscored the efforts it is taking to address counterfeits but that Taobao “is an important concern due to the large volume of allegedly counterfeit and pirated goods available and the challenges right holders experience in removing and preventing illicit sales and offers of such goods.” Alibaba was previously on the notorious markets list four years ago. Taobao is among the 15 top sites globally, and among the top 5 in China and was the subject of numerous notorious market submissions by industry.  Some US companies had been questioning why Taobao had been dropped from the list (see my blog from a program at Cardozo law school).  Alibaba’s President, Michael Evans, in response to the relisting of Taobao, noted that the decision “leads us to question whether the USTR acted based on the actual facts or was influenced by the current political climate.”  A press release of the American Apparel and Footwear Association supporting USTR’s decision to list Taobao is found here.

The Notorious Markets Report was released in the afternoon of December 21, 2016; it remains to be seen how much affect (if any) the report has on shares being traded in the United States (see chart above).  Alibaba did overcome other counterfeiting-related legal hurdles this year.  Alibaba had been the subject of several US law suits involving its alleged involvement in counterfeiting activities. A racketeering claim was dismissed in August of this year.  In June of 2016, Alibaba reported that seven securities class actions law suits against Alibaba were dismissed that involved allegations that Alibaba failed to disclose a “white paper” issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce before its US public offering.  The white paper was reportedly critical of Alibaba’s IP protection policies.   Attached are two of the recent US court decisions involving the shareholder law suits.

These are personal, non-official opinions.