Revised Patent Administrative Enforcement Rules – Is SIPO Building an Administrative System so the Patent Law Amendments Will Come?

On January 27, 2015 SIPO released a revised draft of its Patent Administrative Enforcement rules for public comment.  The released draft includes a line by line comparison with the last version (Feb. 1, 2011) as well as an explanation of the changes. The due date for comments is March 15, 2015. The purpose of these amendments is to address such matters as reducing the time frame for patent administrative litigation, improving procedures, and improving enforcement in the on-line environment.

Separately SIPO Commissioner Shen revealed at a SIPO Party Meeting on January 23, that in addition to rapidly increasing patent filings (2.361 million in total in 2014), , the total number of patent administration enforcement cases was 24,479, increasing 50.9% from the prior year.  This is a nearly 16 fold increase since 2009.  Past efforts like these have typically brought surges in “patent passing off” cases, which is most like false marking.   SIPO’s administrative enforcement in recent years has also shown irregular month to month cycles that are likely tied to enforcement campaigns (see my chart below).Patentadminenf

I estimate that this high level of enforcement activity is likely due to a combination of four factors, including an NPC Standing Committee to supervise administrative patent enforcement in eight provinces and regions that was launched in 2014. a campaign from last year to address counterfeit and substandard products (打击侵犯知识产权和制售假冒伪劣商品), a renewed commitment to amend the patent law, which Commissioner Shen noted in his talk at the meeting to local IP Offices on January 19, and SIPO’s own desire to ensure that its administrative enforcement system is not sidelined by recent efforts to improve judicial adjudication of high technology IP cases, including the establishment o f the specialized IP courts.   Indeed, the explanation advises that this draft reflects the commitments to improving rule of law in China.

The different roles of China’s administrative and judicial systems in patent enforcement has been previously discussed by me in this blog,  I quoted David Kappos at that time as recommending that “China should consider concrete ways of promoting and improving the civil judicial enforcement system by providing more resources, promoting the independence of the judiciary, providing for more training of judges, particularly on technical patent matters, and in general, improvements in the civil legal environment”  Many of these efforts are now underway in the judicial system.   Maybe the administrative system is trying to catch up?

Photo below, from Beijing airport – a foreign company advertising its patented product in 2015.

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Updated January 17, 2016.

Action Plan for Further Implementation of the National IP Strategy (2014-2020) Approved

According to a Chinese Government website, on  December 29, the State Council reviewed and approved the Action Plan for Further Implementation of the National IP Strategy (2014-2020) (Action Plan). The Outline of the National IP Strategy (NIPS) had been implemented for 6 years.  Premier Li Keqiang, and SIPO Commissioner Shen are quoted in the this brief summary.

Chinese authorities have pointed to three key aspects of the NIPS Action Plan:

A.  First, to “Strive to Build A Strong IPR Country”  (努力建设知识产权强国).

B.  To improve IP utilization and protection (知识产权运用和保护).

C.  Practical new steps are to be announced, including plans to promote the development of IP intensive industries (知识产权密集型产业发展).  This  includes greater coordination amongst various branches of national and local government.  Interestingly, and perhaps of greater concern, it also includes “strengthening patent pilot projects,  joint utilization of patents and collective management of patents… to strengthen the competitive advantages of industries.” (强化专利导航、专利协同运用、专利集群管理等工作…增强产业竞争优势).

Here is how I read the tea leaves on this announcement:

First, the references to China becoming an IP “strong country” , and not merely an IP “big country” is a new concept in the NIPS, and likely reflects the observations and approaches of former Commissioner Tian Lipu.  In fact, many observers believe that too much patenting, particularly patenting of a low quality, can be harmful to innovation. I have often noted in this blog that patent quality is a continuing negative side effect of China’s metric-driven approaches to innovation.  In addition, innovation is largely a local phenomenon – China’s efforts to become a strong innovative country this time will also include programs to make strong IP provinces and cities in China.

Second, the reference to IP utilization directly quotes the negotiated language of the Third Plenum and its commitment to “Strengthen the Utilization and Protection of IP” (加 强知识产权的运用和保护).  This was also something that former Commissioner Tian discussed as a positive outcome of that meeting.

Third, the reference to IP intensive industries is new to China’s strategic planning, and, as noted by Commissioner Shen, reflects the influence of the influential US government  2012 report on Intellectual Property and the US Economy.   Reference is also made by Commissioner Shen to IP intensive industries being low on resource demands and low polluting.

The legislative basis for the National IP Strategy is the China Science and Technology Promotion Law (Dec 2007).  Article 7 of that law provides that China will establish a NIPS, in order to promote innovation, encourage indigenous innovation (激励自主创新), and raise the utilization protection and management of IP.  This 2007 law was famous for codifying the concept of indigenous innovation, which elicited considerable concern at the time over potential discrimination against the foreign technology community.  This Action Plan introduces several new and useful concepts which, if implemented fairly, will benefit foreign and domestic investors alike.