IPR protection effort makes great strides

(China Daily) Updated : 2021-04-26

Nation moving toward becoming major power in intellectual property rights

China has seen stronger protection of intellectual property rights and faster development of innovation under the particular care and high requirements of the central leadership, authorities and IPR experts said.

Their remarks came ahead of World Intellectual Property Day on Monday, and emphasis is being placed on how China is transforming itself into a big IPR producer and striding forward to become a great power in IPR.

They said the high level of attention the top leadership has attached to IPR protection has given clear direction for IPR-related work, adding that a series of steps on further protection of IPR have also been accelerated in various aspects, such as in legislation, government agencies and judicial departments.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, President Xi Jinping has highlighted the significant role that IPR plays in both domestic development and on the international stage. IPR has also been a major topic when Xi presided over a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in November last year.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, stressed that innovation is the primary driving force behind development, emphasizing that protecting IPR is equal to protecting innovation.

In his article, published in this year's third issue of Qiushi Journal, Xi said that to reach the goal of comprehensively strengthening IPR protection, China will lay out detailed measures for six key areas-improving top-level design for IPR protection, making IPR protection more law-based, intensifying whole-chain IPR protection, deepening the reform of the IPR protection mechanism and systems, promoting international cooperation and competition in IPR and safeguarding national security in the IPR field.

Xi also underscored that IPR protection matters to the modernization of China's governance system and capacity, high-quality development, people's happiness, the country's opening-up and national security.

"All the requirements reflect that IPR protection occupies a prominent position in the top leadership's governance agenda," said Wu Handong, head of the IPR research center at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. "It also means quick advancement of our country's IPR-related fields has arrived, and the ship of being a great power in IPR has also set sail."

Strengthened efforts

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, speeded up its amendments to laws on IPR, with harsher punishments for IPR violators and stronger protection for IPR owners. The revised trademark law took effect in 2019, while amendments to laws on patents and copyrights will come into effect on June 1.

IPR-related government departments have also improved law enforcement by increasing regular inspections and special campaigns.

Last year, for instance, 31,300 cases dealing with allegations of trademark infringement and 7,100 cases concerning accusations of fake patents were solved by administrators, Shen Changyu, head of the China National Intellectual Property Administration, said on Sunday. He said the administration has specified 134 measures to meet the top leadership's instructions on strengthening IPR protection, adding that all of them have been carried out.

"We've basically finished drafting a strategy framework for being an IPR powerhouse and a guideline on IPR protection and its application in the five years that follow," he said.

Shen said that the time it takes to review patent and trademark applications has been progressively shortened in recent years to improve processing efficiency and encourage innovation.

The time for reviewing high-value patent applications-now 14 months-will be shortened by about five days by the end of 2022, and trademarks are expected to be processed within four months, he said.

As for those who hoard or squat on trademarks instead of using them, or otherwise harm the interests of others, He Zhimin, deputy head of the administration, said on Sunday that the office resolutely rejects such applications and exposes those who engage in such practices to public criticism.

In March, the administration rejected and released information about applications for a trademark registration to use "Crystal Clear Love" on 17 items, including food, drink and clothing. The saying was a patriotic expression found in the diary of a soldier who died during a border clash with Indian troops last year.

The authority clarified that the trademark registrations sought an improper interest, desecrating the spirit of heroes and having a bad social impact.

He said on Sunday that from 2018 to 2020, more than 150,000 such irregular applications for trademark registration were rejected by the authority.

While administrative measures are being strengthened to protect intellectual property rights, Chinese courts have also been fighting infringements in order to promote technological innovation and create a sound business environment through case hearings.

The Supreme People's Court, China's top court, said last week that courts across the country had concluded about 440,000 IPR cases on average every year since 2018, an average increase of 21 percent annually.

"Meanwhile, we've improved the quality and professionalism of IPR trials," said He Rong, a senior official at the top court.

In 2019, a national-level IP court specializing in handling appeal cases over patents and professional technologies nationwide was opened as a division under the top court, while four intermediate-level IP courts were also established, in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou in Guangdong province and at Hainan Free Trade Port.

Facing IPR disputes involving foreign litigants, "courts have always upheld equal protection to help expand our judicial influence worldwide and improve our legal protection image of being a responsible power through fair rulings and high legal efficiency", she said.

To increase capabilities in handling IPR cases, the Supreme People's Procuratorate set up a special procuratorial office in November 2020 to comprehensively safeguard IPR. The SPP said in March that 12,000 people were prosecuted for IPR infringements last year, about 64 times the number in 1999.

Wu, the professor, expressed his confidence in China's IPR protection and its progress under intensified efforts from the top leadership to the grassroots level.

"Focusing more on IPR-related work to increase economic transformation, technological progress and cultural prosperity is an inevitable choice for a great power," Wu said.

Yi Jiming, director of Peking University's Institute for International Intellectual Property, said strengthened IPR protection is a requirement in the new era and an internal need for the rise of China.

Yi noted that IPR is a key support for economic and social growth in the new development paradigm, calling for the country to shift from being an IPR importer to a major IPR producer and improve IPR quality instead of just pursuing quantity.