The National People’s Congress (“NPC”) is the top legislature and the highest organ of state power in China. The NPC is elected for a term of five years and holds a plenary meeting every year to, among others, determine statue issues, appoint high-level government officials and enact or amend the Constitution or other national laws.
On March 17, 2018, The 13th NPC approved the proposal made by the State Council, China’s chief administrative authority, to restructure the administrative organs under the State Council.
For IP owners and IP professionals, what they need to know is after the restructuring:
- The State Intellectual Property Office (“SIPO”) will take over examination and registration of trademarks from the China Trademark Office (“CTMO”) and the Trademark Review and Adjudicative Board (“TRAB”).
- The SIPO will also take over registration and administration of geographic indicators from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
- The SIPO will have additional responsibility to guide the enforcement of trademarks and patents but will not handle such enforcement on a daily basis.
- The SIPO will be subordinate to a new State Administration for Market Supervision (“SAMS”). The SAMS will have broad power including but not limited to enforcement of patents and trademarks. Hence SAMS’s enforcement teams (whose names are not known) will be in charge of trademark and patent enforcement with guidance from the SIPO.
- The SIPO will remain to determine whether to grant patents, handle pre-grant proceedings (such as review of refusals) and post-grant invalidation proceedings.
- The State Administration of Industry and Commerce will cease to exist. As an outcome, its subordinate CTMO and TRAB will cease to exist, with their responsibilities to be taken over by the SIPO and other departments of the SAMS.
One purpose for the above restructuring is to consolidate government resources in administering and enforcing IPRs and to make the administration more efficient. It is not known how long the restructuring will take to complete. There are open issues about the new structure. For example, it is not clear whether the SIPO will take over the administration and/or enforcement of copyright from the National Copyright Administration. We will keep you updated of any development that may affect the administration and enforcement of IPRs in China.
We set out below the charts showing the current administration structure of IPRs and the new structure.