On 26 October 2018, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress issued a decision to establish a new IP Court of Appeal at the national level within the Supreme People’s Court, operational from 1 January 2019.
The so-called SPC IP Court (Intellectual Property Court of the Supreme People’s Court) located in Beijing handles, principally but not exclusively, appeals in patent and technology cases.
TheSPC IP Court’s jurisdiction encompasses two types of patent cases:
- appeals against judgments declaring infringement or non-infringement issued by courts of first instance nationwide, including the three specialized IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the 16 intermediate courts with specialized IP sections and other intermediate courts with jurisdiction over patent cases; and
- appeals against administrative judgments issued by the Beijing IP Court on patent validity or rejection of patent applications.
Understanding China’s timeline of development concerning IP provides a clearer overview with regard to this latest step. In 2008, China announced its National IP Strategy, which seeks to promote and protect IP creations with the goal of centralizing patent litigations. Then in 2014, specialized IP Courts were established in the key cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Four more followed in 2017 in Nanjing, Suzhou, Chengdu, and Wuhan. Establishing a national IP appeal court has been a frequent topic of debate in China since the establishment of specialized IP courts in 2014.
Under the previous legal system, patent and technology-related cases were generally handled initially by the intermediate courts or specialized IP courts and appealed to the high courts of the different provinces, which led to splits on different patent law issues due to a variety of reasons, such as, unbalanced development in different regions, lack of expertise, diverging interpretations of the laws and regulations, or local protectionism.
It is also important to consider that legal and technical issues relating to patents and technology are often complex and require the judge to have a high level of expertise. The new SPC IP Court will be composed of judges who possess appropriate experience and knowledge of handling patent cases involving technology. Accordingly, the establishment of the new SPC IP Court will improve the quality of decision-making and act as a guide for first instance courts in technology-related cases.
As a result, the new SPC IP Court will contribute towards facilitating a more practical and international business environment and, thus, it is hoped that more foreign companies will feel encouraged to litigate in China to enforce their patents.
Finally, turning to the statement by the National People’s Congress, these changes are intended to “unify the standards of IP cases, further strengthen the judicial protection of intellectual property rights, optimize the environment for scientific and technological innovation, and accelerate the implementation of the development strategy driven by innovation.”Author: Ruth Sánchez