Improved intellectual property (IP) enforcement in China took a leap forward last year when the Beijing IP Court opened its doors and accepted its first case. The Beijing IP Court was the initial IP Court of first instance established and IP Courts in Guangzhou and Shanghai became operational shortly thereafter. The introduction of these specialized IP Courts is enabled by the October 2014 pronouncement by the Chinese Supreme Court clarifying the jurisdiction of the IP courts.

Eminent jurist Su Chi has been appointed as the Head Judge of the Beijing IP Court ably assisted by experienced judges and IP professionals. According to the published plans the judges will be assisted by technical investigation officers as needed. IP Courts will be responsible for all first instance cases related to technical matters including invention, utility and design patents, plant variety protection rights, layout designs of integrated circuits, ownership of technical secrets and copyrights for computer software. The first instance jurisdiction of technical matter cases is independent of the IP enforcement route leading up to the filing of the case and applies to both civil and administrative cases. As to venue, initially the jurisdiction of the Beijing and Shanghai IP Courts will be limited to those municipalities while the Guangzhou IP Court‘s jurisdiction will stretch to all of Guangdong Province.

In addition to technical matter cases, the IP courts will also deal with non-technical cases such as appeals in civil and administrative cases of the Basic People’s Courts (“grass root courts”) in their locations which concern copyright, trademark, technology contract and unfair competition matters. The IP Courts will also handle appeals against administrative acts in non-technical matters involving copyright, trademarks and unfair competition as well as all civil cases where the recognition of a well-known trademark is involved. Appeals against the decisions of the IP courts will go to the respective High People’s Courts in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai following the existing systematic approach.

Under the new IP court system, the Beijing IP Court is of special importance as this court, and no other IP court, will be solely responsible for dealing with appeals against the following;

  • administrative decisions relating to the grant, validity or scope of IP rights involving patents, trademarks, plant variety protection and layout designs of integrated circuits made by the State Council departments, such as the Patent Reexamination Board of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) and the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board of the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) dealing with trademark matters;
  • administrative rulings by the State Council departments involving compulsory licenses and related disputes with regards to patent, plant variety protection and layout designs of integrated circuits; and
  • other administrative acts involving the grant, validity or scope of IP rights made by the State Council departments

The IP courts will quickly gain technical expertise and specialization, thereby improving the Chinese IP enforcement system and significantly enhancing the Chinese IP ecosystem.