2 February 2021Muireann Bolger

China’s Xi raises stakes on domestic IP protection

President Xi Jinping has called for a stronger and more efficient legal system of IP rights protection, putting innovation at the centre of China’s future prosperity.

In an article published on Monday, February 1, in the third issue of Qiushi Journal, a flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Xi described innovation as the primary driving force behind development.

Protecting IP rights is equal to protecting innovation, Xi wrote.

In the article, Xi underlined the importance of legislation on geographical indications and business secrets, calling for research and a draft of IP-related lawsuit specifications. He also noted that criminal and administrative punishments for IP violators should be intensified.

IP protection for new businesses and technologies, including big data, artificial intelligence and genetics, must also be increased, wrote XI. He also emphasised the need for increased innovation in IP-related case hearings and a more efficient handling of cases.

New IP action plan

The move follows the unveiling of a new IP action plan by the Chinese State Council. On January 29, the council issued instructions to all government departments on how to improve the country’s “socialist market economic system,” putting heavy emphasis on reforming IP rights protection.

The “ Action Plan for Building a High-Standard Market System” held that several IP-related guidelines should be promoted or drafted, including those centring on civil disputes over business secrets and patent cases on drug listing approval.

According to the plan, people who infringe others' IP rights maliciously or for a long time will face harsher punishment while procedures to apply for trademarks or patents as well as the time to review these applications must be optimised and shortened.

Additionally, the plan has decreed that rules on patent protection on medicines and IP protection in e-commerce industries should be devised.

Large-scale IP efforts

In January 2019, the Chinese government set up a national-level IP court as a division of the Supreme People's Court to deal with appeal cases on patents and advanced technologies. By the end of 2020, it had dealt with more than 4,000 such cases.

Alongside the national-level IP court, the country has four intermediate-level courts specialising in IP in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong and Hainan provinces.

These latest developments follow large-scale efforts by China to ramp up its IP provisions, including the amendment of patents, copyrights and trademarks laws to deliver harsher punishments for IP violators and higher compensation for IP owners.

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