IPO’s Comments on Draft Amendments to Patent Law Implementing Regulations

On January 14, 2021, IPO submitted comments to the China National Intellectual Property Administration on its Draft Amendments to the Implementing Regulations of the Patent Law. IPO’s comments included suggestions regarding: foreign filing licenses; mandatory patent contract recordals; industrial designs;  “good faith” patent prosecution obligations; inventor remuneration; pharmaceutical issues; and other areas.  Here are some highlights:

Foreign filing licenses (FFL’s): IPO suggests that patent FFL’s be combined with MofCOM export licenses.  This would make the FFL process in China similar to the USPTO/BIS process. Reducing redundancy in licensing approvals and export controls has been a long-standing concern which has become of increasing importance as China becomes a technology exporter and an important overseas patent filer.

Patent license recordals: IPO seeks to limit the legal effect of a patent contract recordal in infringement cases and in limiting the scope of the actual license. 

Design patent practice: IPO seeks clarification on patent drafting considering changes to Chinese law regarding protection of partial designs. 

Good faith:  IPO seeks to limit the draft regulations concerning proposed good faith requirements in patent prosecution.  In IPO’s views, the mere act of copying or piecing together content from other sources should not be the basis for invalidating a patent.  Rather, IPO  recommends  that “plagiarizing” and “piecing together” be replaced instead with “plagiarizing an invention.”  As mentioned in my other blogs, “good faith” has become an increasingly important aspect of China’s IP regime and is generally in need of a more expansive application in Chinese law.  I believe that the issue is complicated by the lack of a meaningful duty of candor by applicants to the Chinese patent office. If a design is copied from a third party which may already benefit from other protections (such as applied art in copyright or a three-dimensional trademark),  in my view it may be strong evidence of “plagiarizing an invention”,  as it may constitute an effort to defraud the rights holder. Similarly, if language is copied from another person’s patent application and the source of that language is not disclosed, the “plagiarizing” and “piecing together” might be evidence of a willful failure to disclose relevant prior art and mislead the patent office.  Perhaps one effective solution to this problem may be a more expansive concept of “duty of candor” or fraud before the patent office to CNIPA, which would mandate disclosure of potentially relevant prior art.

Inventor remuneration:  This has been a long discussed issue  A recent court case involving inventor remuneration in Shanghai is discussed here.    IPO seeks clarification of the role of “by-laws” as another type of agreement with an inventor creator.

Supplemental patent term certificates: IPO urges that CNIPA make the critical clarification that patent terms may be extended for drugs that are new to China, not to the world.  Consistent with the English text of the Phase 1 Trade Agreement IPO also urges CNIPA to recognize that patent term adjustment should be granted when relevant conditions are met.  The current draft of the regulation states that it “can” (可以)be granted.  IPO also disagrees with proposals to permit third parties to contest supplemental patent term decisions. 

Thank you, IPO, for sharing these excellent comments!

100 Priority IP Projects for 2020

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What does the recently released CNIPA document listing “100  Projects in 2020  to Deeply implement the National Intellectual Property Strategy to Accelerate the Construction of the Intellectual Property Powerful Country Promotion Plan” (2020年加快建设知识产权强国推进计划提出 100项具体措施) (the “100 Project List”) (May 28, 2020) add to the discussion around where China is headed on IP?

The projects reveal much more than its lengthy, bureaucratic-sounding title might indicate. There are several  themes worth noting:

  1. It is ambitious. It includes doing many things over a short period of time, including reducing patent examination time for “high value” patents to 16 months and trademark examinations to 4 months (Projects 55-56).
  2. China is paying attention to its IP quality vs quantity dilemma. This document calls for ending local subsidies for utility model and design patents, as well as trademark (task 59).  It also discusses problems with incentives that are intended to encourage high quality patenting in universities and research institutions, SOE’s, and major government projects (Projects 3, 4, 5, 12, 55, 60 -61, 66, 77-79, 93, 96-97).
  3. There is increased attention to defense patenting. The word “defense” appears 17 times.  Defense patenting also occupies a greater role than in prior plans of type (Projects 6-10, 25, 80).
  4. Trade secrets as well as improving the criminal IP process play important roles (Projects 24, 44, 49, 51-54).
  5. We can expect some important developments in plant variety protection (Projects 26, 47, 57, 92).
  6. There is no attention to innovative pharma IP challenges. There are tasks related to generic medicines and traditional Chinese medicine (Projects 38, 73).  Patent linkage does not appear in this list of tasks.  These omissions could suggest a lack of CNIPA commitment to Phase 1 pharmaceutical IP reforms.
  7. There is a big focus on improving IP-related services (Projects 1, 2, 62, 72, 74, 77, 86).
  8. China reiterates its commitment to plurilateral IP policy (Projects 82, 87).
  9. The drafters are committed to the  Phase 1 Agreement.  China is also doing a lot more on IP than what the Phase 1 Agreement requires (Projects 24, 49, 51, 83, 87, and others).

The word cloud above is drawn from a machine translation of the 100 Project List.

Further background: I have been blogging about China’s national IP plans for years now, including in  2014,  2015 , 2016 as well as in my discussions on the National IP Strategy.  Readers may wish to compare this document with some of the prior strategy documents.