Summary of MoST Presentations at the Two Sessions

Thanks to Mr. Dai Nian, Research Associate, Duke Kunshan University for this summary of some of the presentations of the Ministry of Science and Technology at the two sessions of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Consultative Conference (“lianghui”) meetings.   Much of this summary has direct implications for IP, particularly patents – including regarding China’s continuing innovation in fintech, AI, autonomous vehicles, US-China clean energy cooperation and science cooperation, and commercialization/licensing of technology.

Overall assessment of past achievement and current status

The strategic importance of Science and technology innovation in the overall development of party and state has been significantly increased. China’s S&T innovation capability and efficiency have been largely improved. The country is gradually transforming from passive follower and learner to leader in many fields. The contribution rate of science and technology has risen from 52.2% to 57.5%, with the new economy leading the world such as digital economy, sharing economy. Five years since the 18th National People’s Congress, the major historic achievements of China’s S&T can be summarized as:  S&T capability is significantly improved, the country has entered a stage of “并跑 (at the same speed)” and more and more “领跑 (take the lead)”. China’s strategic high techs is currently at the world forefront; S&T innovation provides strong support to supply-side reforms and improvement of people’s livelihood, fully integrating into socio-economic development.

Artificial intelligence

The critical step for AI to deeply integrate with all aspects of our life is to have strong capability and constant breakthroughs in key technologies, basic research, and make it available to individuals, entrepreneurs dedicated to innovation. But most importantly, China should strengthen the foundation for AI:  enhance the science foundation for AI, speed up integrated systematic R&D of key technologies, and improve R&D discoveries in open platforms. The Chinese government will release AI guidance and detailed rules and regulations in order to achieve breakthroughs in basic frontier theories and key technologies; expedite commercialization and application of AI. At the same time, research on policies, laws and regulations should be enhanced so as to properly address challenges arising from social ethics, employment structure, individual privacy, national security, etc; AI is an international trend. China will strengthen international cooperation, support Chinese AI companies and research institutes to have cooperation with foreign partners.

New energy car and US-China S&T cooperation

Volume of sales of electric cars and new energy cars reached 770,000 last year, and China is now in possession of 1.6 million accounting for half of world total. Primary reasons for developing new energy cars are: improve structure of energy consumption, reducing reliance on oil; reduce air pollution; significantly alleviate traffic congestion when autonomous driving, AI is combined with electric cars in sharing economy model. China and the United States have been cooperating closely in this field. e.g U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) that focuses on energy saving buildings, clean coal,  and electric cars. China-U.S. S&T innovation cooperation will constantly strengthen. The Chinese government is confident that bilateral S&T cooperation will go deeper, given that scientists, entrepreneurs, and government of each country have established well-functioning communication mechanisms.

Scientists and researchers are the main force of S&T management reform

The most important thing to do is focus on people (S&T personnel) if we want to strengthen basic research, promote commercialization, and improve performance of all-chain innovation. Over the past five years, the government has carried out substantial reforms in the overall S&T management system and use of funding. S&T personnel are empowered to have more discretion of fund allocation, to start businesses that commercialize S&T discoveries. Wan Gang points out some obstacles blocking the implementation of reform measures such as fiscal constraints, cap on the rewards to researchers, lack of budgetary flexibility. MOST will produce relevant policies in the near future regarding evaluation system, S&T commercialization, tax preference, and credibility of S&T personnel.

双创 (mass entrepreneurship and innovation)

Under national enthusiasm for 双创 (literally double creation, or mass entrepreneurship and innovation), a lot of group innovation space (GIS) have sprung up that give full play to young people‘s creativity and entrepreneurship and also greatly facilitates economic transformation and development.  Meanwhile, 双创 together with GIS helps promote openness and sharing of S&T resources because R&D achievements made by enterprises, universities, and research institutes are integrated here, with many public services becoming open to all. 双创improves the level of internationalization of China’s innovation, given that there are already many offshore Chinese innovation centers.

Wan Gang highlights three major task to be accomplished in order to upgrade 双创: deep integration of industry, university, and research institute so as to realize high level innovation and entrepreneurship that will serve real economy; promote fintech (finance and technology combination) and provide diverse financial services for tech entrepreneurs and start-ups; absorb and leverage international resources through cooperation, build a favorable ecology for innovation and entrepreneurship that is made up of GIS, incubators, accelerators, S&T parks that cultivate talent, promote commercialization, effectively combine VC with industries.

S&T commercialization

China has accomplished a trilogy in S&T commercialization: over the past five years, the government revised laws on S&T commercialization, promulgated a number of rules and regulations that facilitate and promote S&T commercialization, kicked off a series of moves—the end result is positive considering the significant progress made in technology commercialization and rapid growth of tech transaction market which reached 1.3 trillion yuan in 2017.

MOST at Two Sessions:


Updates March 6 – 12, 2018


From SIPO’s 2017 Statistical Report (see last entry below).

1.  Intellectual property issues discussed during China’s “two sessions” – the annual meetings of the national legislature (The National People’s Congress) and the top political advisory body (the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference). In addition to proposals on reorganizations of State agencies, including SIPO and SAIC,  Premier Li Keqiang delivered a government’s work report on behalf of the State Council. In this work report, Li Keqiang noted that the total number of in-force Chinese invention patents issued in China had tripled, the volume of technology transactions had doubled, and trademark registration cycle had been significantly shortened. In addition, Li set out the agenda for the government in 2018, and one of the items on this agenda is to strengthen intellectual property protection and enforce a punitive compensation system for intellectual property rights infringements.

The Chief Justice Zhou Qiang (周强) also delivered the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) work report. Zhou emphasized again the role of judicial protection of IP rights. This report often provides a hint of the more detailed IPR White Papers that the SPC publishes around IP Week in April.

Wan Gang (万钢), minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, also addressed IP related issues during a press conference. A more detailed report on that is forthcoming.

A number of NPC delegates also made proposals regarding IP issues. Many of these are unlikely to be enacted into law. For instance, a delegate from Royalstar (荣事达) proposes using Chinese character as one of the basic requirements in trademark registration; a delegate from Su Ning urges IP protection/clarification for live broadcasts of sporting events (see my blogs on the ongoing debate over copyright protection for sports broadcasts); and a delegate from Nanjing Normal University urges stronger protection for Internet service platform, a topic which is long overdue for reform.

2.  Huawei tops European patent applications Huawei ranked the first in patent applications in 2017 on the European Patent Office patent-filing list, the office said in its latest reporting. With 2,398 patent applications in 2017, Huawei became the first Chinese firm that tops the EPO ranking in the office’s history, followed by Siemens with 2,220 and LG with 2,056.

3.  CAS plans patent auctions  The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) will hold a patent auction for the first time, involving a a portfolio of 932 patents. The patents were selected from those obtained by 104 institutes and 89 national labs affiliated with the academy, and cover a wide spectrum of fields, including new materials, intelligent manufacturing, advanced biomedical technology, new energy and ecological environmental technology. The 932 patents are a small subset of CAS’ patent holdings in China of approximately 46,000. According to An Lili from CAS’s intellectual property center, the minimum starting bid for the patents is expected to be 100,000 yuan (15,700 U.S. dollars). The Intellectual Property Operation and Management Center of CAS is promoting the patents in the coastal provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang as well as the cities of Shanghai, Fuzhou and Shenzhen, where auctions will be held in March.

4.  SIPO releases basic statistics of patent application in 2017  As detailed in this collection of tables (Chinese language), the United States was the second largest foreign filer at SIPO, after Japan (about 41,000 to 37,000 applications — see chart above).   State Grid was the largest Chinese invention patent grantee, with about 3,622 patents, ahead of Huawei (3,293).  Among foreign filers, the United States had four companies in the top 10: Qualcomm (no 1), Intel (7), IBM (8) and General Motors (10). Huawei was the single biggest Chinese user of the PCT system. The report also provides snapshots of One Belt One Road filings. China’s top two filing destinations were India and Russia, while China’s top two foreign filers in the OBOR were Singapore and Israel.


SIPO/IP Agencies to Be Reorganized and Consolidated

Several Chinese news agencies have reported on by the State Council, the proposed reorganization now being presented to the National People’s Congress, which will significantly rearrange all Chinese agencies, including IP agencies.

According to the plan, after the reform, the number of state-level ministries and commissions will be reduced by 8 and vice-ministerial agencies were reduced by 7.  State Councilor Wang Yong(王勇), who was formerly a Minister at AQSIQ (Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, 2008-2010) where he addressed tainted milk amongst other issues,  noted in introducing the changes to SIPO that “SIPO would be newly organized.  The creation, protection, utilization of IP will be strengthened as an important measure to speed up the establishment of an innovative economy.” The proposal includes combining trademarks and patents which are separately managed and have “redundant” enforcement authority.   These authorities will be combined with ASQISQ’s authority over Geographical Indications to establish a national State Market Supervision Adminsitration (国家市场监督管理总局) (“SMSA” for purposes of this blog).

Wang Yong’s statement in Chinese:


The creation of SMSA suggests that SIPO’s once lofty goal/dream of serving as an integrated IP agency, which was initiated by Dr. Gao Lulin when he was Commissioner, may have come to a temporary end.  At one time a stumbling block to this proposal may have been integrating the vast trademark enforcement resources of SAIC.  It appears that such an integration would likely be accomplished under the new SMSA.  Another legacy issue that may need to be addressed involves SIPO’s legacy authority over international IP which often overlapped with MofCOM’s authority over trade-related IP, which became especially important after WTO accession by China and may be even more challenging by the integration of SIPO into a bigger agency.  Noticeably absent from this proposal, however, are the copyright authority (under the National Copyright Administration), as well as trade secret protection (under SAIC).  Plant variety protection, already divided between two agencies (Agriculture, Forestries) with SIPO helping to support international engagement, is is also absent.  One view of these changes is that voices within China that look at IP (including patents) as an instrument of market regulation, including consumer protection, may have won out.  This approach was evident in the work of the National Leading Group Fighting IP Infringement and Substandard Products (全国打击侵权假冒办公室), as well as the increased activity of SIPO over the years in conducting market supervision actions involving false marking and patent infringements.  Indeed the wisdom of keeping this Leading Group within MofCOM in light of a new SMSA may be questioned; however, the Leading Group consists of many more agencies than SIPO, SAIC and AQSIQ.   Nonetheless the State Council had previously called for reducing redundancies in enforcing the market order, and it was also part of the yet to be adopted patent law revisions.  In that State Council opinion, which may be a guiding part of this reorganization, there is a call for  “the elimination of duplicative multilayered enforcement”, including territorial and subject matter overlaps. See: 

The approach of creating a SMSA to address enforcement challenges is also distinct from the technology-oriented reforms of China’s judicial system in recent years, which have led to the creation of technology oriented IP courts as well as the creation of more autonomous IP  tribunals.  The incorporation of sui generis GI protection into SMSA agency also pits two sometimes rivalrous agencies with different perspectives on utilization of the trademark (private rights) system with a sui generis (more public rights oriented) system to protect GI’s.  Finally, it would also likely have the effect of elevating SIPO to a General Administration in the State Council structure, which is just below a Ministry-level agency.   This is somewhat more similar to the structure of the USPTO which is within the Department of Commerce in the United States.

How do the other IP agencies shake out?  It is too soon to know.  The Ministry of Culture is merging with the Tourism Administration.  Will the National Copyright Administration remain within the General Administration of Press and Publications/State Administration for Radio Film and Television structure? Also, there are some reports that the Ministry of Science and Technology is also being reorganized to absorb the State Foreign Experts Bureau and the China National Science Foundation.  Finally, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council is reportedly moving to the Ministry of Justice.    The SCLAO has exercised a tremendously important role over the years in crafting IP legislation.  The impact of some of these changes will also likely depend on personnel shifts within the agencies.  In addition, it could impact or accelerate efforts already in place by these agencies.  For example, will the change in the SCLAO structure affect long-overdue proposed revisions to China’s copyright law, which reportedly are once again the subject of active discussion? Similarly, it is unclear to me at this stage what impact there will be on the China Food and Drug Administration (reorganized in 2013), in light of other changes to health-oriented agencies and SIPO, and if this will affect, or perhaps accelerate, efforts to reform IP administration by SFDA, such as through a patent linkage regime.  

These proposed changes elicit more questions than answers; we will need to see how they are enacted and implemented in the coming months.  We welcome corrections and additional information from readers!

Update of March 14: Fu Yiqin at Yale has put together a useful summary of proposed State Council reorganizations.  Here is the link:  Fu Yiqin notes that the State Food and Drug Administration and antitrust enforcement agencies will be combined in the State Market Supervision Administration (where SIPO, et al will also be located).  SARFT is maintained as a separate agency in this chart.  Other news has SARFT being restructured:  Clearly we need some more dust to settle on some of these issues. Hypothetically if antitrust and IP are combined into one agency (perhaps including copyright), and if IP enforcement also is combined into that agency, the problem of the inherent conflict of interests between IP grants, IP enforcement and controlling for IP abuse would be heightened.  However, if SFDA is also combined with SIPO/other IP agencies, there is also the possibility for greater coordination on pharma-related IP issues, such as linkage. I will be updating this as more information becomes available.  Note that in a prior blog, I abbreviated SMSA as GAMA – I am following the nomenclature of Fu Yiqin.




February 27 – March 5, 2018 Developments

  1. China’s cabinet issue new policy initiatives on reforms of IP judiciary systems

On February 27, 2018, the top policy-making body of China (General Office of the Party and General Office of the Council) issued its policy roadmap, entitled “Opinions on Several Issues regarding Strengthening Reform and Innovation in IP Trial” (“Opinions” hereafter). The Opinions set forth the basic guidelines, principles, reform targets and critical measures for reforms and innovations in IP trial. The key points are summarized below.

  • Improve IP litigation system: The Opinions propose several measures to reduce the burden of proof to be borne by the IP owners, and also propose determining damages mainly based on compensation and with punishment as a supplement. In addition, the IP case guidance system will be improved.
  • Strengthen IP Judicial System: a national IP appellate hearing mechanism is to be established and more specialized IP venues are to be set up
  • Strengthen the body of jurists: The Opinions propose picking IP judges from law-making staff, lawyers and legal experts. In addition, the Opinions propose strengthening capacity building of technology investigation officers and making rules for the admission of technology investigation comments.

In addition, during a press conference, China’s leading IP jurist and Supreme People’s Court Vice President Tao Kaiyuan 陶凱元 commented on the Opinions. Justice Tao again emphasized again the role of judicial protection of IP rights (Justice Tao’s prior comments on this is reported here). She announced that 2017 saw a 40% jump in IP-related litigation in the country. The number for new first-instance cases for all categories of intellectual property rights nationwide was 213,480. Justice Tao did not provide an overall number of cases involving foreign parties, but she did noted that on average, foreigners are parties in 20% of all cases, a number that is significantly higher than official statistics on foreign-related cases (涉外案件). That number is even higher Beijing IP Court, where up to 30% of cases are foreign related. Justice Tao said that judicial authorities strive to make Chinese courts preferred venues for international IP disputes which are trusted by litigants.  Justice Tao also noted that Chinese companies face problems overseas, such as at trade fairs (note that the topic of US trade fair enforcement, which often involves Chinese defendants is the subject of two forthcoming articles by Prof. Marketa Trimble and a forthcoming conference to be held in October 2018 at University of Nevada Las Vegas).  More comments on the Opinions are available here.

  1. China has formed a “15 + 3” judicial protection of intellectual property  structure

On March 2, the Zhengzhou Expanded Intellectual Property Tribunal (知识产权法庭) in Henan Province was established. Another two same kind of tribunals: Tianjin and Changsha were also established past week. Up to this point, all 15 expanded intellectual property tribunals (知识产权法庭) in Zhengzhou, Tianjin, Changsha, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Jinan, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hefei, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu have been set up, together with the three specialized IP courts (知识产权法院) in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou,  forming a new  “15 + 3” intellectual property protection program in China. However, those expanded intellectual property tribunals still need to go through legislation process to become free standing specialized IP courts, which had not been completed thus far.


Asia/China at IP Scholars Conference at Berkeley: Call for Papers

The Intellectual Property Scholars Conference brings together intellectual property scholars to present their works-in-progress in order to benefit from the critique of colleagues. This year, the IPSC will be held in Berkeley August 9-10, and will include a special track dedicated to Asia IP law, including – I hope a focus on empirical research and China.   I will be blogging shortly on some of the interesting research I am seeing, and I hope that scholars from different disciplines will come to discuss their work.
Regular registration for IPSC will open later this year, but if you would like to present a paper, please submit an abstract using this form: y4eniAX6tuud63.
Deadline for submission of abstracts: May 25, 2018.
Deadline for submission of full papers or presentation slides: August 1, 201