As we reported earlier in Specialized IP Courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou: Paving the way to more efficient IP litigation?, on August 31, 2014, China’s Standing Committee passed a decision concerning the establishment of specialized IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. These three jurisdictions were not picked at random; they are three of the top IP jurisdictions in the country with some of the most experienced IP judges. In our earlier report, we noted that details regarding the structure and organization of the IP courts would be forthcoming from the Supreme People’s Court (the “SPC”), but that we expected the IP courts to be established by year’s end. Since then, the SPC has issued its Regulations on Jurisdiction of the IP Courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and all three IP courts have been established and have started accepting cases. This post updates our earlier report.

Under the SPC regulations, the IP courts have original jurisdiction over the following cases:

  • Civil and administrative cases involving complex technology (e.g., patents, technical trade secrets, computer software, and semiconductor designs);
  • Administrative review cases against decisions regarding copyrights, trademarks and unfair competition made by government agencies of above the county level; and
  • Civil cases involving the recognition of well-known marks.

Generally speaking, this means that the IP courts will have original (first instance) jurisdiction over technology-related IP cases and IP-related administrative review cases (e.g., the appeal of an IP-granting decision by the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (the “TRAB”) or Patent Review Board (the “PRB”) or the appeal of an IP-infringement decision by a local IP bureau). Local courts, either Basic People’s Courts or Intermediate People’s Courts depending on the circumstances, will have original jurisdiction over most non-technical IP cases (e.g., trademark and non-technical copyright infringement cases).

We expect this year to be busy, exciting and challenging for IP litigators in China (and the IP judges!)

Beijing IP Court

Following regulations issued by the Beijing High People’s Court on November 4, 2014, the Beijing IP Court was established and entered into operation on November 6, 2014, thus becoming the first IP court in China. At last check, more than 25 judges, including its president Su Chi, had been appointed to the court and the court had accepted more than 220 cases. This is a large number of cases in such a short time, but such case volume is attributable to the Beijing IP Court having exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving review of TRAB or PRB decisions (such cases comprised 63% of the total cases accepted by the court), and the other IP courts are unlikely to have such large case numbers.

Guangzhou IP Court

The Guangzhou IP Court was established on December 16, 2014 and started accepting cases on December 21, 2014. The Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Guangzhou has appointed at least 10 judges to the court, including its president Yang Zongren. The Guangdong High People’s Court has issued a notice clarifying the court’s subject-matter jurisdiction as follows:

  • In addition to the general jurisdiction provided under the SPC regulations, the Guangzhou IP Court has jurisdiction over “high profile” IP cases (i.e., disputes involving foreign parties and claims over about USD 800,000). Thus, the court would have jurisdiction over a trademark case involving either a foreign party or a claim for over USD 800,000, which to us seems somewhat contrary to the jurisdictional limits stated in the SPC regulations. We understand, however, that this will be changed and the court’s jurisdiction will not include trademark and non-technical copyright cases. We are waiting for official confirmation.
  • The Guangzhou IP Court does not have jurisdiction over cases that otherwise should be brought in Shenzhen. The Shenzhen Basic and Intermediate People’s Courts will retain jurisdiction over those cases.

Shanghai IP Court

The Shanghai IP Court was established on December 28, 2014 and was open to accept cases from January 1, 2015. We understand that over 12 judges have been appointed, including its president Wu Xielin. According to a notice issued by the Shanghai High People’s Court, the Shanghai IP Court has original jurisdiction over IP-related anti-monopoly civil cases in addition to the types of cases specified in the SPC regulations.

Our domestic IP agency has already filed two trademark administrative review cases with the Beijing IP Court and two IP infringement cases with the Guangzhou IP Court. We expect this year to be busy, exciting and challenging for IP litigators in China (and the IP judges!) as we work through the issues that inevitably will arise during the IP courts’ first year in operation. Stay tuned!