During its first session on 13 March the National People’s Congress approved a restructuring plan which includes both organizational and responsibility changes for the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO).

According to the reform plan the SIPO will lose its direct supervision by the State Council and will be under the supervision of the newly established State Administration of Market Supervision and Administration.

The State Administration of Market Supervision and Administration will bring together the China Food and Drug Administration, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), General Administration of Quality Supervision, and Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). It will also be solely responsible for competition law enforcement - replacing the complex responsibility scheme of the anti-monopoly regulatory functions of SAIC, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The organization of the SIPO under this special market control administration unit may strengthen the SIPO’s IP enforcement powers and drive IP reform in the pharmaceutical field which we reported on previously.

The most prominent change to the duties of the SIPO will be the inclusion of trademark responsibilities which up to now have been handled by the SAIC. SIPO will also now manage geographical indications, which were previously the responsibility of the AQSIQ. The responsibility for copyrights will remain with the National Copyright Administration of China.

SIPO’s organizational changes are aimed at strengthening and harmonizing the management and enforcement of patent and trademark rights by bringing them under a single agency’s supervision. The Government’s restructuring of its IP agencies will also align China with other major IP jurisdictions where patent and trademark matters are managed together in one government IP office. These include the United States Patent and Trademark Officer (USPTO), German Patent and Trademark Office, the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom (UKIPO), Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO).