Copyright infringement case
Patent ownership case
Patent infringement case
New plant varieties case
False advertising case
Trademark invalidation case

On 15 July 2021, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued its 28th batch of guiding cases. All six cases concern intellectual property.

Copyright infringement case

The plaintiff sued a company for copyright infringement of its furniture design. The claim was dismissed by the first-instance court but upheld by the second-instance court and the SPC. The SPC judgment confirmed that works of applied art may be protected as works of fine art by the Copyright Law, but the protection conferred only extends to the aesthetic appeal, rather than the functionality, of the work of applied art.(1)

Patent ownership case

The plaintiff sued its former employee and another defendant over the ownership of an invention, which had initially been filed by the former employee and had later been transferred to the co-defendant. The main issue was whether the patent at issue constituted a service invention created by the employee while fulfilling the job responsibilities assigned to him by the plaintiff. From the first instance to the retrial, the courts unanimously ruled in favour of the plaintiff.

In the retrial, the SPC enumerated what must be considered when determining whether a patent constitutes a service invention as prescribed in article 12.1.3 of the Implementing Regulations of the Patent Law:

  • the nature of the job responsibilities undertaken by the former employee or the tasks assigned by the former employer while the employee still worked for the employer;
  • any correlation between the patent at issue and the job responsibilities and assignments;
  • whether the former employer conducted technological research and development (R&D) pertaining to the patent at issue or whether the relevant technology had another legitimate source; and
  • whether the applicant or patentee of the patent at issue is capable of providing a reasonable explanation of the R&D process or the source of the patented technology.(2)

Patent infringement case

The plaintiff sued the defendants for patent infringement, requesting cessation and indemnification of damages and reasonable costs totalling 5 million yuan. Both the first-instance court and the second-instance court (the SPC) ruled in favour of the plaintiff.

The SPC delineated in detail the parameters required to ascertain patent infringement in the network communications industry – namely, where the accused infringer, for the purpose of manufacturing and operation, substantiates the substance of a patented solution in the accused infringing products and the act itself or the consequences thereof plays an indispensable and substantial role in fully incorporating the technical features of the patent claims. Therefore, the terminal user, during normal use of the accused infringing products, would naturally reproduce the patented method and process. It will thus be ascertained to have exploited the patented method and infringed the patent at issue.

In this case, while the plaintiff had furnished prima facie evidence to prove the profits the infringer has yielded from infringement, the infringer had refused to provide proof of the infringement scale. The Court therefore dismissed the defendant's defence on the degree of contribution of the patent at issue to its profits.(3)

New plant varieties case

The plaintiff sued the defendant for new plant variety infringement. The case was dismissed by the both the first-instance court and the second-instance court (the SPC).

The SPC elaborated the boundaries of the scope of protection of new plant variety rights and the criteria in ascertaining infringement under different circumstances. The SPC affirmed the propagating material of a licensed variety falls under the scope of protection of a new plant variety right. Nevertheless, the scope of protection cannot be confined to propagating materials acquired through specific methods utilised in applying for the variety right. Those plant materials that are different from the propagating material commonly used by a breeder during the granting of their new plant varieties, yet may still be utilised as the propagating material of the licensed variety, shall also fall under the protection scope of the new plant variety. A plant material that is to be ascertained as the propagating material of a certain licensed variety must meet the following conditions:

  • it is a living body;
  • it has the ability to reproduce; and
  • the new individuals reproduced share identical features and characteristics with the licensed variety.(4)

False advertising case

This case is merely the tip of the iceberg of the legal feud between Wang Lao Ji and Jia Duo Bao. Wang Lao Ji sued Jia Duo Bao on the ground of false advertising for using the commercial tagline "Red-canned herbal tea with leading sales is rebranded Jia Duo Bao" (in Chinese). The SPC dismissed the plaintiff's claims upon retrial and elucidated the criteria to be met in ascertaining false advertising.

According to the SPC, if a party releases a commercial tagline – based on a previous trademark licensing contract it entered into with another party and its contribution in terms of promoting the goodwill of the licensed trademark – and informs the consumer of the fundamental facts without causing misunderstanding among the relevant public or exhibiting any intention to improperly exploit the reputation and goodwill of the trademark, such act shall not be deemed to be false advertising under the Anti-Unfair Competition Law.(5)

Trademark invalidation case

Jiang Jin Winery (Group) Ltd filed to invalidate Jiang Xiao Bai Distillery's registered trademark JIANG XIAO BAI (in Chinese characters), citing article 15 of the Trademark Law. The case exhausted all viable procedures and ended with the SPC affirming the validity of the disputed trademark, finding that Jiang Jin Winery Group had enjoyed no rights to the disputed trademark prior to the application date even if it had formed a distribution relationship with Jiang Xiao Bai Distillery.(6)

For further information on this topic please contact Mary Ma at Wanhuida Intellectual Property by telephone (+86 10 6892 1000) or email ([email protected]). The Wanhuida Intellectual Property website can be accessed at

Zeqi Su and Lei Gao also contributed to this article.


(1) Case No. 157, CROSPLUS Ltd v Beijing Zhong Rong Heng Sheng Ltd.

(2) Case No. 158, WEIBOND Technology Ltd v Li Jianyi.

(3) Case No. 159, Shenzhen Dun Jun Technology Ltd v Shenzhen Tenda Technology Ltd.

(4) Case No. 160, Cai Xinguang v Guangzhou Run Ping Commerce Ltd.

(5) Case No. 161, Guangzhou Wang Lao Ji Health Industry Ltd v Jia Duo Bao (China) Beverage Ltd.

(6) Case No. 162, Chongqing Jiang Xiao Bai Distillery Ltd v CNIPA.