The PRC Supreme Court accepted Honda’s application for a retrial and upheld the validity of its design patent for a SUV.

The Supreme Court recently handed down a judgment concerning the readjudication of Honda v. the Patent Reexamination Board. It reversed the two lower courts' decisions and ruled that Honda's design patent ZL 01319523.9 was dissimilar to the cited prior Japanese design patent No. 1004783 and, therefore, valid.

Click here to see Honda's design patent.

Click here to see Japanese design patent.

In China, matters are adjudicated by the People’s Courts at two instances. Therefore only very few cases are qualified for readjudication.

The amendments to the Civil Procedure Law which were promulgated in 2008 have relaxed the criteria for applying for readjudication. Many of the IP cases (both invalidation and infringement actions) eventually end up being submitted to the Supreme Court for readjudication.

This is a case in which a party invoked the readjudication system and successfully overturned the two lower courts’ decisions.

The two lower courts had found that, when compared with the prior Japanese design, Honda's design patent only contained very minor differences which did not cause an obvious visual impact perceptible to the average consumer.

However, the Supreme Court considered that the average consumer in this case was one who may purchase this specific type of vehicle, i.e. a SUV. SUVs generally have a similar basic contour outline. Thus, a potential SUV buyer would pay more attention to the decorative design features on the front, rear and sides of the vehicle, such as headlights, the bull bar, side windows etc.

Based on this, the Supreme Court found that the decorative design features of Honda's design patent resulted in an obvious visual impact which was perceptible to the average consumer.

As a result, the court decided that the design patent was valid.