China Expands IP Legal System

The Chinese government is focusing more on legal certainty in intellectual property and is condensing the network of agencies responsible for IP. Currently, the structure of courts handling IP infringement lawsuits is organized according to the principle of “1 plus 4 plus 22.” Here, the number 1 represents the IP court at the national level, which is a part of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). The number 4 represents the IP courts in the key economic zones of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hainan. The 22 denotes other departmental courts at the local level distributed throughout China.

To speed up the handling of complex IP cases, there is a newly created Technical Investigation Department at the SPC, which employs more than 450 specialized investigators from about 30 different technical fields. They focus particularly on patented new inventions from emerging technical industries. In 2020, the SPC saw a 63 percent increase in lawsuits in the IP field. This proves that Chinese companies also want to protect their innovations more.

Xi Jinping sees IP protection as an important factor for the further development of technical innovations. This goal is also explicitly mentioned in the new five-year plan. In order to achieve more qualitative growth, the number of applications for high-quality patents is to increase massively. Currently, there are 6.3 patent applications per 10,000 inhabitants in China; in the future, there should be about twice as many, with 12 patent applications per 10,000 inhabitants. 

For foreign companies, this development will result in better legal protection of their intellectual property in China, but they themselves must also take care not to infringe any Chinese patents in the future.

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