IPR courts ‘would be help­ful’

Judges with spe­cial­ized knowl­edge in grow­ing need as caseloads in­crease

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG ZHENGHUA in Sin­ga­pore and WANG XIN in Bei­jing

China is mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion by pledg­ing to set up ded­i­cated courts for in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights cases, a se­nior United Na­tions of­fi­cial has said.

Proper leg­is­la­tion for IPR pro­tec­tion is al­ready in place, and spe­cial­ized courts will help judges be­come more pro­fi­cient in han­dling com­plex cases, Jo­hannes Chris­tian Wichard, deputy di­rec­tor- gen­eral of the World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Or­ga­ni­za­tion, said in an in­ter­view in Sin­ga­pore.

“It is help­ful whether you do it in a spe­cific court or do it by as­sign­ing IPR cases al­ways to the same one cham­ber within a court,” he said. “IPR is­sues con­cern quite a spe­cific area of the law. They can be quite com­plex. For ex­am­ple, if you deal with a patent dis­pute, you don’t have to be a tech­ni­cian but you must have the tech­ni­cal un­der­stand­ing.”

Un­der the present le­gal frame­work, IPR law­suits are heard by a tri­bunal for civil tri­als or by a court’s IPR di­vi­sion.

In a re­form blue­print by the Third Plenum of the 18th Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in Novem­ber, lead­ers vowed to ex­plore ways of set­ting up ded­i­cated IPR courts.

The pro­posal came amid a surge in IPR law­suits and a grow­ing aware­ness of in­tan­gi­ble as­sets.

In a white pa­per re­leased in April, the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court said courts na­tion­wide han­dled 83,850 civil law­suits in­volv­ing IPR in 2012, up 44.1 per­cent year-on-year.

There is a clear trend world­wide for judges to be at least spe­cial­ized in IPR is­sues, even if a coun­try has not set up a ded­i­cated court, the UN of­fi­cial said.

Ger­many, for ex­am­ple, has a spe­cial­ized fed­eral court deal­ing with va­lid­ity cases and a lim­ited num­ber of com­mer­cial tri­bunals to han­dle patent- re­lated in­fringe­ment dis­putes.

“They are very pop­u­lar,” Wichard said, ex­plain­ing they de­cide more patent in­fringe­ment dis­putes than the courts in the other Euro­pean Union na­tions com­bined.

“Even cases not re­ally in­volv­ing two Ger­man com­pa­nies, but just hav­ing one el­e­ment in Ger­many, are tried in the courts be­cause peo­ple get good judges and a rea­son­able price,” he said.

The United States, Ja­pan, Rus­sia and Fin­land also have courts that han­dle IPR is­sues, es­pe­cially patent dis­putes, which re­quire pro­found tech­ni­cal knowl­edge.

The pos­si­bil­ity of China es­tab­lish­ing IPR courts has been dis­cussed for sev­eral years, but the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court has not re­leased a timetable on when they may be rolled out, ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua News Agency.

Le­gal ex­perts said a spe­cial court to han­dle the ris­ing num­ber of dis­putes is nec­es­sary. How­ever, they also warn that such a move may re­sult in ma­jor power shifts be­tween ad­min­is­tra­tive agen­cies and the Min­istry of Jus­tice.

“The courts will be very help­ful be­cause at least the court de­ci­sions will be more con­sis­tent,” said Cyril Chua, a part­ner of Sin­ga­pore-based in­ter­na­tional law firm Bird & Bird.

Ha Si, a lawyer in Bei­jing who cov­ered the IPR sec­tor for nearly 20 years, said judges in China’s de­vel­oped ar­eas are more ex­pe­ri­enced in deal­ing with IPR cases than those in un­der­de­vel­oped re­gions.

“Found­ing a new court will help unify de­ci­sions on key is­sues for trial, paving the way for proper en­force­ment,” she said.

China has more than 30 high courts at pro­vin­cial level that are re­spon­si­ble for deal­ing with IPR ap­peals in their re­gions.

Li Shunde, deputy di­rec­tor of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences’ In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Center, said the abil­ity to en­force de­ci­sions can vary con­sid­er­ably.

To re­duce the gap, “we pro­posed cre­at­ing a spe­cial IPR court to han­dle ap­peals, some­thing like the US Court of Ap­peals for the Fed­eral Cir­cuit”, Li said.

How­ever, he added, given the grow­ing num­ber of IPR cases, it could be too much for just one uni­fied court of ap­peal to deal with cases from around China, so another op­tion is to es­tab­lish four to five courts in dif­fer­ent re­gions. Con­tact writ­ers at wangzheng hua@chi­nadaily.com.cn and wangxin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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