MofCOM’s September 12 IP Program in DC Covers A Wide Range of IP Developments

Here is a digest of some of the highlights of the half day program hosted by MofCOM on IP in Washington DC on September 12.

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate gave a useful overview showing the policy reasons for the big increase in criminal IP cases, including the expanding role of the procuratorate.

SIPO underscored the increase in its examiners and the decreasing pendency periods to 22.2 months.   SIPO has also conducted a social survey which showed a relatively high approval rating of its procedures (81.8%).

The Chinese side did not address the foreign-related impact of the Specialized IP courts. However the low foreign utilization of the civil IP system was generally acknowledged.

Regarding the new TM law, procedures for auditory marks was discussed, oppositions for non use, and changes in the recordal system for licenses. SAIC was careful to underscore that its recordal system did not require submission of business confidential information.   SAIC also discussed the changed provisions for liability by reasons of “providing convenience” to infringement, including storage, transportation, mailing, printing, concealing, providing a business premises and providing an on-line goods trading platform.

SAIC also noted that the TM law also sought greater coordination with other laws, including the anti-unfair competition law and criminal laws. For example, it provided support for demonstrating “intentionality” in  TM infringement when other indicia, such as trade dress infringement, are present.  Chinese IP Attaché Chen Fuli also noted that a key provision of the new TM law was its including of concepts of honesty and credibility into the TM system, which were borrowed from the civil law.

The National Copyright Administration noted that there were now at least 632 million Internet users in China, and 527 cell phone users, with 2,730,000 websites. NCA also noted that there were widely differing opinions on the types of amendments that were necessary for the copyright law.  In revising the law to address recent developments, NCA was looking at earlier State Council regulations on on-line liability, and recent civil and criminal JI’s.  NCA also noted that the on-line “Sword Campaign” resulted in 201 cases sent to criminal referral.  In addition NCA was supervising 25 websites for their content of top movies, and TV programs.  In NCA’s view, music and published works were continuing to experience significant problems, and NCA hoped to address these through a black-list system.  Also, NCA noted that many IP addresses for companies that were subject of its enforcement campaigns were located overseas, including in the US.

The Leading Group reviewed its numerous, generally successful, efforts at improving coordination on IP enforcement, including its recent campaigns. Unfortunately, its special campaign on trade secrets had only resulted in 21 administrative enforcement cases in the first half of 2014.

Regarding China’s sui generis system of GI’s, AQSIQ noted that this system was based on China’s Product Quality Law, and was initially implemented in 2004 by the Department of Science and Technology of AQSIQ. AQSIQ noted that relevant rules governing operation of the sui generis system included the Provisions on Protection of Geographical Identity Products, and the Working Rules on GI Product Protection, which provide for opposition and cancelation of GI applications.  Describing GI’s as a “public rights” system, AQSIQ also noted that it has set up a  GI working group, it has started work on a GI products encyclopedia,  it had promulgated over 1000 standards for GI products,  and that it had set up exemplary zones for GI products..  AQSIQ also noted that NAPA Valley had secured GI protection in China.  Its GI application was published in August 2011 and there had been no opposition to it.

Altogether, it was a useful and informative program.

Full disclosure: I co-moderated the program, although this summary represents my personal views only.

Specialized IP Courts Established in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou; Song Xiaoming New Chief IP Judge

According to Xinhua, on August 31, the NPC passed legislation establishing specialized IP courts (http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2014-08/31/c_1112298943.htm) (“Decision of the NPC Standing Committee on Establishing Specialized IP Courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou”)

As indicated, the courts are to be established in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.    Some basic aspects:

1.  The types and numbers of cases are to be decided by the SPC

2.  The court will hear technically complex first instance civil matters and administrative appeals (patents, technical trade secrets, plant varieties, semiconductor layout designs, etc.).

3.  The Beijing IP court will hear first instance appeals of validity / invalidity decisions of State Council IP agencies (patent office, trademark office, etc.).

4.  The courts will have cross-territorial jurisdiction for the types of  cases determined by the SPC noted  in the first paragraph above within three years.

5.  The court will also hear appeals from first instance trademark and copyright cases that originate at the basic level court in its municipality.

6.  Appeals of first instance decisions of the specialized IP courts will go to the high court of the province or city where that court is located.

7.  The specialized IP courts will be supervised by the SPC, the local high court and, “according to law”, the procuratorate.  Note that  no specific procuratorate – national or local is indicated.

8.  The President ( 院长) of the local IP court will be decided  and appointed by the local people’s congress.

9.  The Vice President of the court, chiefs of tribunals and adjudicating judges will be decided by the President and subject to appointment by the local people’s congress.

10.  The SPC will report on the implementation of the IP courts to the National Peoples Congress three years from now.

11.  The specialized IP courts are established as of August 31, 2014.

There are clearly some additional details and kinks to be ironed out.  For example certain copyright cases can be as technologically complex as patent cases;  there is no legal definition of “technical” trade secret as opposed to trade secrets involving business information; having the heads of these specialized courts be appointed by local people’s congresses may also continue to result in significant local protectionism; cross border jurisdiction for first instance cases for the courts could also result in cross border jurisdiction of the local high court, which could also increase local protectionism.  As I have noted several times before, I am unclear if anti-monopoly  cases qualify as “技术秘密等专业技术性较强的” (technologically complex, technically specialized) cases.

It  also appears likely to me that these courts would also be first instance courts for trademark and copyright cases which involve foreigners.  Such cases are typically now filed in the intermediate court or higher.  The NPC decision notes only that the specialized courts however have jurisdiction over appeals from the basic level courts which heard trademark and copyright cases.  As foreigners do not file cases in the basic courts, the specialized IP courts may be their courts of first instance.   知识产权法院所在市的基层人民法院第一审著作权、商标等知识产权民事和行政判决、裁定的上诉案件,由知识产权法院审理.  One question that arises is whether these courts would then also have cross border jurisdiction – which could then make them an effective tool in dealing with cross border counterfeiting and piracy involving foreigners and others.

The decision does further commit Beijing city to hearing administrative and civil IP cases in one specialized court, which is likely a good development for foreigners who bring many administrative cases.   If the Beijing IP court were granted jurisdiction over all cases where there is a validity challenge to a patent or trademark anywhere in China,  it could also result in a significant efficiency in the Chinese system.

These first instance specialized courts for technically complex cases will still be subject to review by at least one, possibly two appellate courts.  In this respect, the reform may be less like the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which established one national patent appellate court.  Rather, it appears to mostly be a reform of first instance adjudication, which might include consideration of venue, jurisdiction, consolidation of cases and further training of judges.

In a contemporaneous development, according to the People’s Daily (http://rmfyb.chinacourt.org/paper/html/2014-09/01/content_87088.htm?div=-1), Kong Xiangjun孔祥俊 is no longer head of the No. 3 (IP) Division of the SPC.  He has been replaced by Song Xiaoming 宋晓明, formerly chief judge of the No. 2 Civil Division.  Kong had  reportedly been scheduled for promotion and was working in SIchuan for the past several months.  It is unclear to me where Kong is next headed.

 

Ministry of Commerce IP Program in DC December 5

Chen Fuli, IP Attaché at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC the morning of December 5.   The program is free of charge, but seating may be limited.   You should RSVP at: lishuai@mofcom.gov.cn.

The topics are all ones that I have actively followed in this blog.  Here is the tentative agenda:

International High Level IPR Cooperation Forum

Dec 5,  Georgetown Holiday Inn

2101 Wisconsin Ave, NW, 20007, Washington DC

 9:00-9:20  Opening remarks, by Both China and U.S. Representatives

 9:20-9:40   New developments in IP enforcement in China, by Director Jing Zhang from the Office of Fighting Against IPR Infringing and Making or Selling Counterfeit and Shoddy Products under the State Council

9:40-10:00  New amended Chinese Trademark Law, by Deputy Director General Qing Xia from CTMO

 10:00-10:15 Q & A

 10:15-10:30 Coffee Break

 10:30-10:50  Amending of Chinese Copyright Law by Deputy Director Ping Hu from NCAC

10:50-11:10  Amending of Chinese Patent Law and Regulation on Service Invention by director Yanhong Wang from SIPO

11:10-11:30  New practice of IP trials after the amendment of Chinese Civil Procedure Law by Judge Yuanming Qin from SPC

11:30-11:50 Q & A

11:50-12:00 Closing Remarks

—————-

12:00-13:30                    Lunch (hosted by China for all the participants)

In addition to the speakers noted above, there will also be Chinese official participants from public security, Customs, procuratorate, AQSIQ and other agencies, which should help make for lively discussion and interaction.  I hope to see you there!