Industrial Property Law Developments in China

From last year, with the improvement of China’s industrial technological level, as well as tremendous changes in the international competitive environment, China’s patent protection system and patent protection practices were also changed and adapted to the same.

With a tremendous scale in creation and application of various types of IPR, and enhanced values of some IPR, there are IP disputes that are prone to occur frequently, while the supply side of non-litigation dispute resolution mechanisms is insufficient, so that the rigid demand for judicial protection is continuously on the rise.

The IP tribunals have been successively founded to make the patent judicial trials more specialised. After the Supreme People’s Court summarised and promoted the practical experience of IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou last year, the establishment of IP-specialised trial tribunals was approved for cross-regional jurisdiction in 11 cities including Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Hefei, Fuzhou, Jinan, Qingdao and Shenzhen to enhance the unification of standards, scales and quality of verdict, and provide better verdict guidelines for the creation and application of IP.

The technical investigator system has been introduced in patent litigation to make patent infringement litigation trials more specialised. In patent case trials, the court often needs to identify a number of technical facts, and conduct in-depth research and comparison of technical solutions. Overcoming complex technical obstacles in the identification of facts is a key point that has long affected enhancement of the quality and efficiency of trials.

In response to this problem, Chinese courts explored establishing a system where technical investigators neutrally perform duties to assist in the trial, and appointed a number of technical investigators from multiple channels such as enterprises and institutions, universities, scientific research institutions, national patent agencies, and patent agent associations. Thus, the “four-in-one” mechanism was jointly participated in by professional people’s jurors, technical investigators and expert assistants, and judicial appraisal agencies for identifying technical facts were constructed to assist judges in cracking technical doubts and clearing technical obstacles to an impartial trial.

The patent link system has been established in view of the fact that patent infringement litigations taking place during the listing approvals of drugs will have certain impact on the approval of generic drugs. In view of the fact that drugs in the process of listing approval may not be examined for patent infringement, drug research enterprises have to resort to legal means to restrain infringements after the listing of drugs by a competitor. However, restricted by the drawbacks of small infringement damage amounts and difficult enforcement under the current patent system in China, such right protections are usually almost in vain.

As stipulated in the Opinions on Deepening the Reform of the Review and Approval System to Encourage the Innovation of Drugs and Medical Instruments issued by the central government, in order to protect the legitimate rights and interests of patentees, reduce the patent infringement risks of generic drugs, and encourage the development of generic drugs, the establishment of a drug review and approval, and drug patent link system, was explored. When an applicant for drug registration submits an application for registration, the applicant must state the relevant patent involved as well as its ownership status, and notify the relevant drug patentee within the specified time limit.

Where there is a dispute over the patent right, the parties concerned may file a lawsuit with the court without aborting the technical review of the drugs during the period. For drugs that have passed technical review, the Food and Drug Supervision Department should make a decision on whether to approve the listing according to the court’s effective judgment, ruling or mediation.

If the effective judgment, ruling or mediation is not obtained within a certain time limit, the Food and Drug Supervision Department may approve the listing. According to the above-mentioned provisions, after the receipt of the notification from the drug listing applicant, the relevant drug patentee who believes that its patent right has been infringed may bring a patent infringement lawsuit to the judicial authority, which to a large extent discourages the generic drug manufacturer to employ the “Bolar case exception” to apply for drug listing before the drug administration department. The establishment and improvement of the drug patent link system may also significantly reduce the time for the drug patent expiration and the drug listing in the near future.

The patent infringement compensation system has been further perfected, which greatly enhances compensation amounts. There are always problems such as difficult investigations and evidence collection, and low amounts of compensation in patent infringement. According to the current patent law, the compensation first follows the “bridge principle”, which is to bridge all the losses of the patentee, and is not punitive to the infringer.

The revised patent law is expected to stipulate that, where the patent right is intentionally infringed, the court may raise the amount of compensation to a maximum of three times, according to the circumstances, scale and damage incurred. As long as the patentee can prove that the competitor is present with intentional infringement, a punitive damage judgment may be made against the infringer.

The people’s court may determine the amount of compensation to be more than double and less than three times, based on the above-mentioned method, according to the circumstances, scale and damages incurred from the infringement.

The amount of compensation should also include the reasonable expenses of the rights holder incurred for stopping the infringing act. The amount of compensation should also include reasonable expenses paid by the rights holder to restrain the infringement act.

Exploding the Myth of Patent Law Tardiness

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.

The Indian IP system is continuously being criticised in the global media and in the IP world as being slow to grant/ register IP rights; to some extent even the local IP counsels and professionals add fuel to this In various platforms it has often been stated that the delay in the grant of patents in India is often a deal breaker for a lot of companies.

This is the image that has been created and the purpose of this article is to clear the fog and provide a clear picture. In the past few years, particularly after the digitising process, the Indian IP office is one of the more sophisticated IP offices in the world. It is among the few IP offices in the world which offers 100% digitisation of every process including video conferencing of hearings. Furthermore, one of the attributes of Indian IP offices is that the filing for registration of a trade mark, copyright, patent and design applications, can be done 24×7 on any day of the week. In order to improve efficiency there are four autonomous Patent Offices and five Trade Mark Registries in India which are exclusive in itself. The best talents are being hired by the Patent and Trade Mark offices for the examination process and I have had the unique privilege to train some of these talented individuals. There have been recent discussions regarding lackadaisical working of the Indian IP offices but I would like to throw light on the Indian IP offices expediting the internal examination process for speedy grant/registration of IP rights.

A Patent Application was filed on 15thNovember, 2016 for “A Process for Preparation of Quinophthalone” bearing application No. 201621038962. An application for expedited examination of the patent application was filed on 27th May, 2017. After the substantial examination of the application, the first examination report was issued, the response to which was filed by us promptly. The Application straight forward proceeded to grant and on 8th December i.e. the patent was granted in less than 13 months from the date of filing. This clearly debunks the myth that grant of patents in India are delayed. It is necessary to note that one of the major reasons for the patent application moving forward were the well drafted patent claims, the proper representation of invention disclosed therein and a quick and proper response to the Examination Report. Therefore, if the inventors and their consultants also ensure that their drafts unequivocally disclose the invention in the application, draft comprehensible claims, submit a proper response to the Examination Report issued by the Examiner there is a high possibility of the patent application being granted by the Controller in a year.

The Indian Patent Office, in recent times has ramped up its activities for instance; it has hired more patent examiners, is providing notifications regarding any formal defects in the application/patent compliance via e-mail to applicant of patent applications, patentees and patent agents and expediting the examination process of patent applications etc.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that apart from the Patent Applications even Trade Mark applications have started moving forward expeditiously. For example we filed trade mark application No. 3496744 for the mark ‘Apodis’, in class 43, in March 2017 and the same was granted registration in September, 2017 i.e. within 6-7 months the trade mark was registered. This time period includes the 4 months statutory period of publication of the trade mark in the journal which allows third parties to file an opposition if the advertised trade mark is similar to their trade mark. We had taken care of all the formalities such as conducting a thorough search for the trade mark, filing the form of authorisation, submitting services specification approved by the Indian Trade Marks Office, to ensure a speedy grant of the registration.

Similarly, the Designs office has also in recent times granted Design registrations within a period of 2-3 months if the application is in order, for instance we filed Design No. 294922 for floor cloth on 21st June, 2017 and the certificate of registration for the same was issued on 25th August, 2017. Therefore, within a period of 2 months we were successful in obtaining design registration for our client.

It is fair to state that the Indian IP offices are adhering to the time lines specified in the respective statutes, which is a step in the positive direction and should encourage more Universities, individuals, Start-Ups, Corporates to file patent and trade mark applications in India. It is necessary in such times to give credit to the patent and trade mark Examiners when it’s due. This will also help in boosting the confidence of the individuals involved in the process as well and dispel the myth of tardiness that surrounds the Indian IP scene.