Since November 2014, when the first IP courts were set up in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, China has been rapidly setting up new specialised IP tribunals throughout its vast hinterland. The IP Courts and tribunals are meant to deal with China’s booming IP caseload, which reached a total of 213,480 IP cases in 2017, an increase of 46% year-on-year. The latest additions to the growing list of IP tribunals are the IP tribunals located in Changsha (in Hunan Province, southwest China) and in Xi’an (in Shaanxi Province, northwest China). China now has a total of 15 IP tribunals (see map below) and 3 IP courts. It is hoped that the establishment of these new specialised IP Tribunals will also improve the quality and professionalism of IP litigation outside of China’s main metropolises.

Note: this map only includes the IP tribunals and excludes the IP Courts.

Unlike the three IP Courts, which are fully independent, the IP Tribunals are established within the existing structure of the provincial Intermediary Courts. The judges constituting the bench of the IP Tribunals are generally picked from the ranks of Intermediary Court judges with at least 10 years of experience in IP litigation.

The IP tribunals generally have cross-regional jurisdiction in first instance IP cases, and their subject-matter jurisdiction essentially comprises:

  • All first-instance civil patent, trade secret and software cases;
  • All first-instance civil trademark copyright, unfair competition, technical contract cases, with claims above a certain monetary threshold;
  • All first-instance administrative IP cases;
  • All first-instance criminal IP cases;
  • Appeals against first-instance IP judgments rendered by district courts within the territory of each Tribunal.
  • All other first instance cases will be brought before the territorially competent district courts.

It is hoped that the establishment of these new specialised IP tribunals will further improve the quality of IP litigation throughout China, where IP owners (in particular foreign IP owners) are sometimes reluctant to bring claims. As the popularity of the specialised IP Courts has proven, IP owners may now feel more confident in bringing lawsuits before the specialised tribunals, which offer better knowledge of IP laws, and increased professionalism.