China introduces new IP appeals courts

In October 2018, the Chinese National People’s Congress established a new process to settle disputes over intellectual property cases, specifically those concerning matters which are of a technical nature. This includes matters relating to patents, utility models, technical secrets, integrated circuit boards and many other technical fields.

This announcement transferred jurisdiction over these IP disputes containing a technical aspect, to the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). The proceedings over IP disputes of a non-technical nature, i.e. disputes over trademarks and copyright, will not be affected by this change.

The SPC itself issued further provisions on the 28 December 2018 to clarify its remit and override existing legislation which contradicts the new provisions. The legislation provides for an ‘Intellectual Property Tribunal’ which will exist as a permanent judicial body sitting in Beijing and ruling on “cases with strong technical expertise”.

This change in legislation came into force on the 1 January 2019, and as such no significant cases have yet been decided by the tribunal.

The IP Tribunal will sit above the existing localised IP courts and give judgements in order to provide a more consistent judicial process across China, as the previous system was often criticised for the somewhat inconsistent nature of decisions made by a variety of local courts. The IP tribunal judgements shall have equivalent power to that of the SPC’s judgements, and shall also preside over “major and complicated first-instance civil and administrative cases”, but only those within its remit of cases which demand ‘strong technical expertise’.

The newly founded tribunal will be able to establish guidelines for the lower courts as well as establishing precedents in the matters over which the tribunal presides.

The establishment of this system has been praised widely, as the Chinese judicial system has often been criticised for being too lax with regards to IP rights, so the foundation of a court to issue standardised national precedents has brought China closer in the line with the IP dispute systems of many countries. However as there is as of yet no case law for this new national appeals court, the exact details of this system remain to be seen.

This new system will hopefully pave the way for greater reliability in the enforcement of IP rights in China. If you have any questions arising from this article or any other query regarding intellectual property rights in China please do not hesitate to contact us.


© 2019 Wilson Gunn