Draft Service Invention Regulations Out For Public Comment

On April 2, 2015, the State Council Legislative Affairs Office (“SCLAO”) published a draft of the Service Invention Regulations along with an accompanying explanation.  The draft was prepared with the assistance of SIPO and the Ministry of Science and Technology.   Comments are due by May 2, 2015.

Here is a quick translation of what the explanation says about the “hot issue” of the balance between contracting autonomy and providing mandatory minimum rewards for inventors:

The draft fully respect the autonomy of the parties, and adopts the principle of priority of the agreement on the rights of ownership and incentive remuneration reached by the parties according to law.  At the same time, in order to prevent a disguised deprivation or restriction of the rights of the inventor by the employer, the draft establishes a certain restriction on the principle of priority of the agreement of the parties. The draft provides that whenever there is nullification of the inventor’s rights under these regulations, or when the enjoyment or exercise of these rights is subject to unreasonable contractual provisions or rules, those conditions are invalid.

草案充分尊重当事人的意思自治,在权利归属和奖励报酬方面采取约定优先的原则,即当事人依法达成的协议对权利归属和奖励报酬有约定的,优先适用其约定。同时,为了防止单位变相剥夺或者限制发明人的权利,草案对约定优先原则进行了一定限制,规定任何取消发明人依据条例享有的权利或者对该权利的享有和行使附加不合理条件的约定或者规定无效。

Guo Shoukang, Eminent Scholar of IP Law, Passes Away

GuoShoukang

I am sorry to report that Prof. Guo Shoukang 郭寿康, the UNESCO Professor of Copyright Law, emeritus, at Renmin University, died Monday March 22 at 12:35 PM.  Prof. Guo was in his late 80’s.

Prof. Guo taught and inspired generations of Chinese law students and officials.

I would like to share a few moments from the many years of interaction and friendship I had with him:

I was privileged to attend the 65th anniversary of his teaching law in the fall of 2013.  At that time, I was told of how he advocated for a patent law for China in the early 1980’s at the National People’s Congress, when many members were opposed.  I was also told that many officials, such as former SIPO Commissioner Tian Lipu, considered him their teacher.  Moreover, his record of teaching law streteched back to the late 1940’s, when he was a young teacher at Peking University.

I was honored to join him in an interview on CCTV on globalization in IP.   If you go to 5:20 on this video, you will find Prof. Guo continuing his role as a passionate advocate for intellectual property, and countering the arguments advanced by CCTV that intellectual property is a barrier to the development of science and technology.

Even in his mid and late 80’s he was always active and contributing.  I have a copy of his translation of Mihaly FIcsor’s book on Law of Copyright and the Internet which he prepared in 2009 (1125 pp.).  He also continued to advise graduate students even in his later years.

On a personal level, I enjoyed the pleasure of Prof. Guo at a Passover seder at my house in 2007 when I was a diplomat based in Beijing.  I can’t imagine anyone more intellectually curious.

Guo Shoukang – scholar, gentleman, mentor and friend.  Rest in peace.

US-China IP Cooperation Dialogue Report Released

The “US-China IP Cooperation Dialogue Report” was released last week. The Report was prepared by experts from both the US and China, including co-chairs Professor Liu Chuntian of Renmin University and Joseph Papovich, former Assistant US Trade Representative. I was an also a member of the expert committee, first as an academic with Fordham Law School, and later as an advisor when I returned to USPTO, in an otherwise private sector initiative.

The Report reflects the consensus reached during several days of meetings among this experienced team. Here are some of its suggestions:

  1.  Civil Enforcement: the Report urges greater use of precedents through a guiding case system, experimenting with amicus briefs for important cases, expanding evidence preservation and preliminary injunctions, and greater civil deterrence in damage awards.

  2. Criminal Enforcement: the Report calls for adjustments to the criminal enforcement system and an expanded and stable role for criminal IP enforcement.  The US experts sought greater clarity over “for profit” requirements in criminal IP convictions, while the Chinese side believed that current judicial practice will ultimate reduce these difficulties.  Both sides agreed that criminal enforcement should be directed towards repeat offenders, large scale criminal activity, and cross-border criminals.  In addition, officials should be encouraged to increase the volume of criminal prosecutions.  Authorities should also consider plea bargaining and proportional criminal fines, as well as criminal settlement and victim-offender reconciliation.  Victims’ compensation (fudai) claims should also be allowed.  Specialized IP enforcement teams and specialized prosecutors were suggested, as well as clearer IP criminal investigation guidelines.

  3. Customs: Greater support of Chinese customs, with more resources, and more engagement with foreign countries.

  4. Copyrights: The experts supports the 2012 Supreme Peoples Court Judicial Interpretation on intermediary liability and commended the court’s openness in accepting outside comments and evaluating foreign practices.  Both sides also encouraged foreign companies to more aggressively use legal remedies to stop infringement.  While China has made significant improvements in end user piracy, the necessity of criminal liability was also underscored.  The experts also believed that live sports programming should be protected under China’s copyright law, and expanded protection should be afforded to technological protection measures.

  5. Trademarks: The experts expressed support for SAIC’s efforts to address online sales of counterfeit goods, and urged the SPC to consider leveraging its experience in dealing with secondary liability in the copyright context to the trademark context, in order to encourage more cooperation between platform owners and brand owners.  The experts also urged the CTMO to adhere to the principle of good faith TM registrations to deal with squatting, and to expand cooperation with express mail services to deal with global counterfeiting organizations.

  6. Patents: The experts agreed that the courts should continue to play a central role in adjudicating patent cases.  The experts also suggested that China should consider centralized jurisdiction over patent cases to ensure specialization and predictability.  If a centralized patent court cannot be established, the experts considered that the SPC might wish to reduce the number of courts that hear patent litigation cases from the current 89.  The experts also expressed their concern about the low rate of injunctive relief for invention patent cases, and consider means of improving evidence collection, particularly in process patent cases.  The experts also discussed Article 26.3 of the Patent Law (enablement), and problems with retroactive application of examination guidelines and restricting data supplementation.  In evaluating appeals from the PRB to the Beijing courts, some experts also pointed to low reversal rates by the courts, and too much involvement by PRB officials in the court’s decision making process, which can impair impartiality.  The experts also recommended a study on the impact of the short statute of limitations (two years) in China on protection of patent rights.  The Chinese side also thought that foreigners also need better protection and planning for litigation in China.

  7. Trade Secrets: The experts agreed that theft of trade secrets, whether the victims are foreign or Chinese, is “not tolerable.”   The experts further noted that trade secret theft “harms business value and destroys trust” and that trade secret cases can have a big impact on “sustaining the growth of R&D facilities and technological collaboration in China.”  The experts pointed out that parties in trade secret disputes need to be given a fair opportunity to discover key facts and to examine evidence.  Police officers should be able to conduct undercover investigations (Criminal Procedure Law, Art. 51).  Chinese experts also cautioned that criminal prosecutions may be abused and that in some cases the civil and criminal results of the same trade secret cases have had conflicting results.

This eight page bilingual Report is a very useful read for policy makers in the United States and China.  What is perhaps even more important is that it was a joint collaborative effort, which showcases the potential for future cooperation on IP policy efforts.