Following the largely successful establishment of the specialized IP Courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou (see our articles here and here), the Chinese Supreme People’s Court has recently also given the green light for the establishment of specialized IP tribunals in large inland cities Wuhan, Nanjing, Suzhou and Chengdu. It is hoped that the establishment of these new specialized IP Tribunals will also improve the quality and professionalism of IP litigation in China’s “second tier” cities.

The specialized IP tribunals are established in four booming ‘second tier cities’, that have seen a significant increase in complex intellectual property litigation as their economies have become more technologically advanced. A good example is Jiangsu Province (in which Nanjing and Suzhou are located), where no less than 13,000 IP cases were brought before the provincial courts throughout 2016. Unlike the existing IP Courts, which are fully independent, the new IP Tribunals will be established within the existing structure of the provincial Intermediary Courts. The judges constituting the bench of the IP Tribunals will be picked from the ranks of Intermediary Court judges with at least 10 years of experience in IP litigation. The IP tribunals will have cross-regional jurisdiction in first instance IP cases. The territorial jurisdiction over Jiangsu province will be split up between the Suzhou and Nanjing Tribunals, while the Wuhan and Chengdu Tribunals will have territorial jurisdiction over Hubei and Sichuan provinces, respectively. The subject-matter jurisdiction of the Tribunals will essentially comprise:

  • All first-instance civil patent, trade secret and software cases;
  • All first-instance civil trademark copyright, unfair competition, technical contract cases, with claims above a certain monetary threshold;
  • All first-instance administrative IP cases;
  • All first-instance criminal IP cases;
  • Appeals against first-instance IP judgments rendered by district courts within the territory of each Tribunal.
  • All other first instance cases will be brought before the territorially competent district courts.

It is hoped that the establishment of these new specialized IP Tribunals will improve the quality of IP litigation in China’s vast hinterland, where IP owners (in particular foreign IP owners) are often reluctant to bring claims. As the popularity of the specialized IP Courts has proven, IP owners should feel confident in bringing lawsuits before the Specialized Tribunals, which is certainly a step in the right direction.