On December 10 2014 the State Council launched the Action Plan for the Further Implementation of the National Intellectual Property Strategy for the period from 2014 to 2020. The action plan was drafted jointly by no fewer than 26 ministries, commissions and administrations. It follows the National Strategy for the Intellectual Property of China, which was launched on June 5 2008.
In the national strategy, two important dates were set – 2013 and 2020. By 2013 the government was meant to have:
- increased the number of Chinese patents and well-known trademarks;
- achieved a higher proportion of IP rights in Chinese products;
- improved protection of intellectual property; and
- raised the awareness among the Chinese public with regard to intellectual property.
By 2020 the government intends to reach a "relative high standard for innovation, utilisation, protection and management of intellectual property rights".
Six years later, the action plan enumerates the achievements made during the first six-year period following the launch of the national strategy and defines what needs to be done in the next six years in order to reach the 2020 targets.
The 2020 targets are set in quantitative terms. They include the following patent targets:
- The number of patents should reach 14 per 10,000 people (up from four per 10,000 people in 2013);
- The number of patent applications submitted through the Patent Cooperation Treaty procedure should increase to 75,000 (up from 22,000 in 2013); and
- The time in which a patent owner maintains validity for a patent by paying annuities should be extended to nine years (up from 5.8 years in 2013).
The following 2020 targets have also been set:
- The number of copyrighted works should reach 1 million (up from 845,000 in 2013);
- The number of recorded computer software works should reach 200,000 (up from 164,000 in 2013);
- The total transaction volume of technical contracts in the national technology market should reach Rmb2 trillion (up from Rmb800 billion in 2013);
- The income from licensing Chinese proprietary rights abroad should reach $8 billion (up from $1.36 billion in 2013); and
- The average annual growth rate of revenue for the entire IP industry should reach 20% (up from 18% in 2013).
While all of these quantitative figures are planned to increase, the target examination time for patents and trademarks is set to decrease. In 2013 the average examination time for a patent was 22.3 months, while the 2020 goal is fixed at 20.2 months. For trademarks, the average examination time was 10 months in 2013, but is intended to be reduced to nine months by as early as 2015 (this is specified in the revised trademark law) and to remain at this level through 2020.
In order to achieve these goals, the action plan sets out a list of actions that need to be undertaken in the next six years, including:
- promoting the creation and use of intellectual property in order to upgrade the industry;
- strengthening the protection and management of intellectual property;
- expanding international cooperation; and
- promoting international competitiveness.
Some ideas seem new, such as the intentions to:
- create patent alliances and clusters;
- facilitate collaboration between various stakeholders through a patent trading system; and
- release a patent development report on strategic emerging industries.
The action plan also encourages industry associations to strengthen their self-regulation.
The improved enforcement of IP rights is one of the main objectives contemplated in the action plan. In this respect, the disclosure of information concerning administrative penalty cases "so as to deter the offenders" has been emphasised (the action plan refers to the Opinions of the Leading Group for Tackling Intellectual Property Infringement and Counterfeiting Nationwide on Publishing Information Relating to Administrative Penalty Cases Involving the Production and Sale of Counterfeits and Intellectual Property Infringement Pursuant to the Law (for Trial Implementation) (Guo Fa  6)). The action plan recommends exploring the establishment of credit standards relating to the protection of intellectual property and recording malicious infringements, which should be disclosed to credit reporting agencies.
Concerning administrative enforcement, the action plan focuses on key fields such as special campaigns, large cross-regional cases, large commercial sites and fairs. The action plan expects e-commerce platforms to fulfil their responsibilities and urges postal and courier services companies to improve performance of their mail inspection systems.
The action plan makes special mention of the issue of case transfers between administrative authorities and the criminal enforcement authorities, and the need to "gradually incorporate special campaigns into the track of normalised law enforcement". The action plan also emphasises the role of the IP courts, which need to have adequate human resources.
The action plan also mentions the need to strengthen notarisation with regard to evidence preservation for acts such as prior use and IP-related infringement.
The action plan clearly favours dispute resolution though mediation, calling for the improvement of industry mediation mechanisms, the promotion of community mediation organisations and the training of a group of professional mediators.
Regarding the management of intellectual property, the action plan makes special mention of the need for universities and research institutes to transfer and convert their technical achievements into IP rights.
The action plan addresses various international cooperation platforms for the examination of patents and the cooperation mechanisms used in the enforcement of IP rights through Customs.
The action plan supports global enterprises and encourages companies to file for IP rights protection abroad. It notes that assistance mechanisms for safeguarding intellectual property overseas should be established.
In order to fulfil these actions, specific methods have been envisaged, including:
- making information available to the public;
- conducting IP surveys and generating statistics; and
- building national training bases for IP talent, including the incorporation of IP programmes in schools.
In order to implement the action plan, a leading role has been assigned to the State Intellectual Property Office.
The action plan is similar to other administrative documents, in which every aspect of the subject is addressed in very general terms; this does not go without a certain amount of redundancy.
That said, "every aspect" is not exactly covered in this case. For example, the issue of trademarks is almost absent from the text. Only one paragraph briefly refers to the review of trademarks and the need to establish a "green channel for trademark review".
For further information on this topic please contact Paul Ranjard at Wan Hui Da Intellectual Property Agency by telephone (+86 10 6892 1000) or email (email@example.com). The Wan Hui Da Intellectual Property Agency website can be accessed at www.wanhuida.com.
This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.