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China: Supreme People’s Court Designated as Appeals Court for Highly Technical IP Cases

(Nov. 29, 2018) On October 26, 2018, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee issued the Decision on Several Issues Concerning the Litigation Procedures in Patent and Other Intellectual Property Cases (Decision). Effective January 1, 2019, the Decision designates the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), the highest court in China, as the appeals court to hear “highly technical” intellectual property (IP) cases. ( Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui Changwu Weiyuanhui Guanyu Zhuanli Deng Zhishi Chanquan Anjian Susong Chengxu Ruogan Wenti de Jueding [Decision of the NPC Standing Committee on Several Issues Concerning the Litigation Procedures in Patent and Other Intellectual Property Cases] (Oct. 26, 2018), NPC website.)
The “highly technical” IP cases appealable to the SPC are those involving invention patents and utility models, new plant varieties, integrated circuit layout designs, technical trade secrets, computer software copyrights, or monopolies. The SPC is expected to report to the NPC Standing Committee on the implementation of the Decision in three years. ( Id. )
An IP appeal court will officially be set up within the SPC on January 1, 2019, to hear the IP appeal cases. The creation of the IP appeal court, along with the specialized IP courts previously set up in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, is laying the foundation for establishing a national IP appeal court in the near future. ( Zuigaofa Zhishi Chanquan Fating Mingnian Yiyue Zhengshi Chengli, Zhuanli Jishu Anjian Zuo Shidian [ SPC IP Court to Be Established Next January, Piloting Patent Cases ], INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION IN CHINA (Nov. 2, 2018).)
Background: Specialized IP Courts in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou
In 2014 China set up three IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, respectively, which specialize in hearing IP disputes arising in their areas. (2015 ZHONGGUO FALU NIANJIAN [2015 LAW YEARBOOK OF CHINA] 133 (2015).) Currently, first-instance IP cases heard by a specialized IP court are appealable to the IP tribunal of the higher court where the IP court is located. ( Zuigao Renmin Fayuan Guanyu Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou Zhishi Chanquan Fayuan Anjian Guanxia de Guiding [Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on the Jurisdiction of Intellectual Property Courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou] (SPC, Oct. 31, 2014, effective Nov. 3, 2014) art. 7, SPC website.)
The specialized IP courts are on the level of intermediate courts and have jurisdiction over first-instance highly technical IP cases involving patents, new plant varieties, integrated circuit layout designs, technical trade secrets, and computer software. They also have jurisdiction over administrative cases involving copyrights, trademarks, and unfair competition, as well as civil cases involving well-known trademarks. ( Id. art. 1.) The specialized IP courts also accept appeals of first-instance civil and administrative decisions relating to copyrights, trademarks, technical contracts, and unfair competition tried by the basic-level courts in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. ( Id. art. 6.)

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