China's IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Enforcement System

How’s China's IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Enforcement System?
In 1998, China established the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), with the vision that it would coordinate China’s IP (Intellectual Property) enforcement efforts by merging the patent, trademark and copyright offices under one authority. However, this has yet to occur. Today, SIPO is responsible for granting patents (national office), registering semiconductor layout designs (national office), and enforcing patents (local SIPO offices), as well as coordinating domestic foreign-related IPR issues involving copyrights, trademarks and patents.

What’s the IPR protection track system in China?
China is a challenging environment for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR).
If you are considering doing business in China you should investigate the merits of an IPR protection plan as part of your strategy.

Protection of IPR in China follows a two-track system.
A.    Administrative Enforcement Actions
This administrative track is most prevalent, whereby an IPR holder files a complaint at the local administrative office.
A list of the major players of this track (this list is not exhaustive), as other agencies, such as State Drug Administration (for pharmaceutical counterfeits) or the Ministry of Culture (for copyright materials and markets) may also play a role in the enforcement process.
In most cases, administrative agencies cannot award compensation to a rights holder. They can, however, fine the infringer, seize goods or equipment used in manufacturing products, and/or obtains information about the source of goods being distributed.
Appeals of administrative IPR determinations, such as fines, are generally made to Administrative Tribunals of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), while the Criminal Tribunals of the SPC are likely to hear criminal cases.

B.    Juridical System
For juridical track, companies can pursue protections through civil actions in the local People’s Court. Since 1993, China has maintained Intellectual Property Tribunals in the Intermediate People’s Courts and Higher People’s Courts throughout the countries. The total volume of civil IPR litigation in China is considerably less than administrative litigation. Though small companies may prefer to pursue the administrative route, it is expected that the number of IPR litigation cases will significantly increase with recent changes in IPR laws.

Determining which IPR agency has jurisdiction over an act of infringement can be confusing. Jurisdiction of IPR protection is diffused throughout a number of government agencies and offices, with each typically responsible for the protection afforded by one statute or one specific area of IPR-related law.

There may be geographical limits or conflicts posed by one administrative agency taking a case, involving piracy or counterfeiting that also occurs in another region. (In recognition of these difficulties, some regional IPR officials have discussed plans for creating cross-jurisdictional enforcement procedures.) China’s courts also have rules regarding jurisdiction over infringing or counterfeit activities, and the scope of potential orders.