4.1.5 Reform and development of China’s intellectual property case trials
Patent trials are an important part of the intellectual property trial system and are related to three trial areas: civil, administrative and criminal trials. Since 2012, firmly adhering to the concept that protecting intellectual property is to protect innovation, Chinese courts have put into practice the Opinions on Strengthening Reform and Innovation in Intellectual Property Adjudication and the Opinions on Strengthening the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights.50 They have further deepened reform and innovation in the field of intellectual property case trials to ensure the strict protection of intellectual property, resulting in beneficial results, as required in the Guidelines for Building a Powerful Country with Intellectual Property Rights (2021–2035).51
Continuously improve the capacity to try intellectual property cases. The Supreme People’s Court has formulated a series of judicial interpretations on patent infringement, the grant and confirmation of patents, pharmaceutical patents, e-commerce platform and network infringement, monopoly disputes, rules of evidence, preservation of acts, punitive damages and so on. This has helped consistently improve litigation standards in line with the trial rules of intellectual property cases, especially technical patent cases and universal adjudication standards; effectively solved the problems of “difficulty in providing evidence, long duration, low compensation, and high cost” in intellectual property litigation; and significantly increased the cost and price of infringement.
The Supreme People’s Court has formulated a series of judicial policies, including the China Program for Judicial Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, Opinions on Comprehensively Strengthening Judicial Protection of Intellectual Property, and the Plan for the Judicial Protection of Intellectual Property Rights by the People’s Courts (2021–2025) to promote the high-quality development of intellectual property case trials.52 It has exerted the demonstrating and leading role of judicial rules and issued timely guiding cases and typical cases. The Supreme People’s Court effectively performs the function of judicial review and supervision of administrative acts to promote the unification of standards for administrative enforcement and judicial adjudication of intellectual property rights. It has strengthened civil judicial protection, equally protected the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese and foreign right holders in accordance with the law, and properly heard major intellectual property cases involving standard-essential patents, information and communication, integrated circuits, artificial intelligence, big data, gene technology and other high technologies and emerging industries.
The Supreme People’s Court has significantly improved judicial protection capability and influence, safeguarded the legitimate rights and interests of right holders and service inventors in accordance with the law, and promoted the transfer and transformation of scientific and technological achievements. It also properly handles patent disputes arising from the determination of ownership, transfer of rights and determination of value and handles the distribution of benefits of scientific and technological achievements. China has become the country with the greatest number of intellectual property cases – especially patent cases – and one of the countries with the shortest trial periods. Between 2013 and June 2021, there were 143,000 patent cases concluded by the courts nationwide.
Deepen judicial reform in intellectual property case trials. Since 2014, intellectual property courts have been established in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and the Hainan free trade port. On January 1, 2019, the Intellectual Property Court of the Supreme People’s Court was set up and given the responsibility of further unifying the trial criteria of cases on patent and other intellectual property rights involving professional technologies, putting into operation the major reform task of “establishing a national-level appeal hearing mechanism for intellectual property cases.” Special intellectual property trial agencies have been founded in 24 places, including Nanjing, Wuhan and Shenzhen, with cross-regional jurisdiction over intellectual property cases involving professional technologies. The comprehensive “three-in-one” reform of criminal, civil and administrative trials over intellectual property cases has been carried out in an orderly manner in 21 high courts, 164 intermediate courts and 134 primary courts nationwide. Judicial interpretations and judicial policies related to technical investigators have been formulated to continuously improve the mechanism of ascertaining technical facts by technical investigators, technical consulting experts, technical appraisers and expert assistants when participating in litigation activities. A “national court technical investigator pool” and a sharing mechanism have also been established, including more than 450 expert technical investigators covering more than 30 technical fields.
Continuously optimize the working mechanism of intellectual property protection. The working mechanisms of intellectual property protection have been optimized by strengthening guidance on intellectual property cases; establishing a case guidance system consisting of guiding cases, gazetted cases and typical cases; building a database of intellectual property cases and rules for adjudication; providing guidance on strengthening the search of similar cases. This has also been achieved through actively carrying out the pilot work of diversification of simple cases from complicated ones and improving online and offline integration of trial methods to vigorously shorten the duration of intellectual property litigation. The Supreme People’s Court, in conjunction with the CNIPA, has established an online cooperation mechanism for the litigation and mediation of intellectual property disputes, improved the judicial confirmation system for administrative mediation agreements and improved the mechanism for the diversified settlement of intellectual property disputes. It has jointly promoted the specialized sharing of data and has continued to cooperate with the CNIPA in sharing patent talents.
Actively participate in international exchanges and cooperation on intellectual property. To comprehensively implement relevant cooperation matters outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Exchanges and Cooperation signed with WIPO,53 the Supreme People’s Court has continuously developed and enriched the scope of cooperation and participated in global intellectual property governance under the WIPO framework. In addition to signing the memorandum of understanding with WIPO, the Supreme People’s Court has also co-organized WIPO’s “Master Class on Intellectual Property Adjudication,” jointly published the “WIPO Collection of Leading Judgments on Intellectual Property Rights – People’s Republic of China (2011–2018)”54 and participated in the development of the WIPO Lex-Judgments database. It has also coordinated the establishment of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Shanghai Service,55 which has successfully administered mediation of more than 60 intellectual property disputes involving multinational enterprises and broadened the channels for participation in resolutions of international intellectual property disputes. Judges of the Supreme People’s Court have been invited to serve as members of the WIPO Advisory Board of Judges to promote the international exchange of intellectual property judicial protection experiences.
Promote information and intelligence-based intellectual property trials and enforcement. Chinese courts have made full use of smart-court development, accelerated the development of technology-based courts adapted to intellectual property trials and actively used modern technologies such as 5G, augmented reality and artificial intelligence to improve the quality and efficiency of trials. The Rules of Online Litigation of People’s Courts and the Provisions on the Trial of Cases by Internet Courts have also been formulated,56 and a unified judicial blockchain platform for courts nationwide to support parties in online data storage and verification has been established. The Beijing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou internet courts have been actively exploring new internet judicial models. They have handled a large number of intellectual property cases online and have effectively overcome the impact of COVID-19.