March 19 – 26, 2018 Updates

1. China Now Number 2 PCT Filer.  China has overtaken Japan to claim second place as a source of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications  in 2017. In 2017, U.S.-based applicants numbered 56,624 PCT, followed by China (48,882) and Japan (48,208). Huawei Technologies (4,024 published PCT applications) and ZTE Corporation (2,965) – occupied the top two spots for PCT applications. They were followed by Intel (2,637), Mitsubishi Electric (2,521) and Qualcomm  (2,163).   Historically Chinese PCT applications have been concentrated in a few companies.

Chinese academic institutions are still minor users of the PCT.   Among the top 25 educational institution filers, there were only three Chinese academic institutions – Shenzhen University (no. 11), China University of Mining and Technology (no. 15) and Tsinghua (no. 19).

Computer technology (8.6% of the total) overtook digital communication (8.2%) to become the field of technology with the largest share of published PCT applications. These two fields were followed by electrical machinery (6.8%) and medical technology (6.7%)

2. China’s premier pledges market opening in bid to avert trade war On the heels of the Section 301 Report, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reiterated pledges to ease access for American businesses, at the news conference following the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC). Li also said at a conference that included global chief executives that China would treat foreign and domestic firms equally, would not force foreign firms to transfer technology and would strengthen intellectual property rights. Another Vice Premier, Han Zheng,  made similar remarks at the China Development Forum.  Han said that China needs to “open even wider to the outside world,” and would do so via its Belt and Road Initiative.

According to Wall Street Journal citing unidentified source, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer listed steps they want China to take in a letter to Liu He, a newly appointed vice premier who oversees China’s economy. The United States asked China to cut a tariff on U.S. autos, buy more U.S.-made semiconductors and give U.S. firms greater access to the Chinese financial sector. The article also reported that China and the U.S. have quietly started negotiating to improve U.S. access to Chinese markets.

 

US Files Consultation Request at WTO on Chinese Technology Licensing Practices

Fresh on the heels of the Section 301 announcement, USTR on March 23, 2018 made a  consultation request  of China regarding China’s discriminatory licensing practices.  This is the first step in initiation of  a WTO dispute.  Here is a link to the press announcement.

The consultation request broadly speaking alleges discriminatory treatment in licensing pursuant to China’s joint venture regime as well as the  Administration of Technology Import/Export Regulations (“TIER”), as compared to provisions under China’s contract law that may govern purely domestic technology transfers or Chinese exports of technology.  The complaint is based on the National Treatment provisions of the TRIPS agreement as well as Article 28.2, which provides that “Patent owners shall also have the right to assign, or transfer by succession, the patent and to conclude licensing contracts.”  The Section 301 Report of USTR also discusses these issues.

 

 

 

March 13 – 19, 2018 Updates

1. China’s export of IP royalties increased 311.5% in 2017  According to the statistics of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the volume of trade of Chinese IP royalties totaled 33.384 billion USD in 2017, a 32.7 percent increase from 2016. The amount of exports of IP royalties totaled 4.786 billion USD, a 311.5 percent increase from 2016, which ranked No.1 in terms of the speed of growth in service trade. The exports and imports of IP royalties for manufacturing industry ranked No. 1, at 3.793 billion USD, a 544 percent increase from 2016.  The import amount totaled 20.753 billion USD, up 16 percent. In terms of category. The amount of exports of replication/distribution computer software ranked No.1. at 3.405 billion USD, up 652 percent from 2016. In terms of region, Guangdong province was the No.1 in amount of export and import of IP royalties in 2017. Its export amount totaled 4.013 billion USD, up 591.9 percent from 2016 and its import amount totaled 7.525 billion USD, up 9.8 percent from 2016.

Despite the significant increase in the amount of exports of IP royalties in 2017, China still has a trade deficit in IP royalties. The amount of the deficit totaled 23.812 billion USD, which increased by 0.978 billion USD. About 60% of the deficit reportedly originated from the United States, Germany, and Japan.

IP commercialization and utilization has been a focus of China’s IP efforts since the third plenum of the Communist Party in 2014. However, foreigners continue to view China as very challenging licensing environment despite China’s claims of a licensing “deficit”. China’s technology import/export regulations had been one of the challenges that foreigners expressed special concern. In the US Chamber’s recently released IP Index, it was noted that IP commercialization in China was hampered by “[s]ubstantial barriers to market access and commercialization of IP, particularly for foreign companies.” China received zero points for “Regulatory and administrative barriers to the commercialization of IP assets.”  Here is a link to the discussion of Chinese licensing practices. The US Chamber’s conclusion is not unlike that of the Global Innovation Index (2016) which, as we previously reported, scored intellectual property payments according to a formula as a percentage of total trade. China came out at 72nd place, while it ranked number 1 in high tech exports. Similar concerns were also voiced by USTR in the recently released Section 301 report.

2.SIPO takes efforts to develop ability and capacity of IP mediation entities.  SIPO recently issued a “Notice on Developing the Ability and Capacity of Intellectual Property Mediation Entities” (“Notice”), as part of its effort to strengthen the role of mediation in IP dispute and the overall IP protection system. According to the Notice, SIPO will select 20 to 30 existing IP mediation entities every year as the target for ability and capacity development and help with such development for two years. After the two-year period, SIPO will release the basic information as well as specialties of entities that made great progress. Selection and review of existing entities will start this year, which is done by SIPO. Entities can apply either through local IP offices or to SIPO directly.

Within the region, Japan is also considering the use of mediation system to resolve IP disputes. The Japan Patent Office (JPO) intended to introduce an ADR system to determine appropriate license fee of SEPs in 2017. However, the ADR SEP system is likely to be deferred, as reported after a JPO committee meeting in November 2017.

3.  Huawei v Samsung patent decision released by Shenzhen IP Court. The recent decision in Huawei v Samsung was released by the Shenzhen IP Court.  The case involves assertion of two SEP’s by Huawei, and the grant of an injunction against further infringement.

USTR Releases 301 Report on China’s Tech Transfer and IP Practices

The news services are already reporting on the Section 301 Report of USTR, the USTR fact sheet, and the announcement of possible sanctions on 50 billion USD of goods and services imported from China.  Possible sanctions include tariffs on aerospace, information and communication technology, and machinery.  The announcement also contemplates a possible WTO case against China for its technology licensing practices which are alleged to discriminate against foreign licensors.  Investment restrictions are also under consideration.

As in long-past 301’s involving China, China also announced it will strongly oppose these measures, and the media reports that there is a counter-retaliation list.  According to press reports, China will impose reciprocal tariffs on $3 billion of imports from the U.S., including a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork imports and recycled aluminum, and 15 percent tariffs on American steel pipes, fruit and wine. Unlike China, the US list will be announced in the Federal Register after a hearing on the matter, as announced in the fact sheet (above).

 

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:

http://digitalpaper.stdaily.com/http_www.kjrb.com/kjrb/html/2018-03/10/content_390065.htm?div=-1

http://most.gov.cn/xinwzx/xwzx/twzb/fbh18031001/twbbzbzy/201803/t20180310_138522.htm

http://most.gov.cn/xinwzx/xwzx/twzb/fbh18031001/twbbzbzy/201803/t20180310_138521.htm

http://most.gov.cn/xinwzx/xwzx/twzb/fbh18031001/twbbzbzy/201803/t20180310_138520.htm

http://most.gov.cn/xinwzx/xwzx/twzb/fbh18031001/twbbzbzy/201803/t20180310_138519.htm

http://digitalpaper.stdaily.com/http_www.kjrb.com/kjrb/html/2018-03/12/content_390192.htm?div=-1

 

Updates March 6 – 12, 2018

SIPOstats

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:

(九)重新组建国家知识产权局。强化知识产权创造、保护、运用,是加快建设创新型国家的重要举措。为解决商标、专利分头管理和重复执法问题,完善知识产权管理体制,方案提出,将国家知识产权局的职责、国家工商行政管理总局的商标管理职责、国家质量监督检验检疫总局的原产地地理标志管理职责整合,重新组建国家知识产权局,由国家市场监督管理总局管理。其主要职责是,负责保护知识产权工作,推动知识产权保护体系建设,负责商标、专利、原产地地理标志的注册登记和行政裁决,指导商标、专利执法工作等。商标、专利执法职责交由市场监管综合执法队伍承担。 

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: https://chinaipr.com/2014/07/16/state-councils-new-opinion-on-market-order/. 

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: https://yiqinfu.github.io/posts/state-council-reform/.  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: http://deadline.com/2018/03/china-abolish-sapprft-media-authority-consequences-xi-jinping-1202336724/.  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.