The Supreme People's Court recently promulgated the Provisions on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Laws in Adjudicating Administrative Cases Involving Granting and Affirmation of Patent Rights, which is the first judicial interpretation concerning the trial of patent administrative cases. This article summarises the judicial interpretation's main points.
The Guangzhou IP Court recently upheld a first-instance judgment which had dismissed a trademark infringement claim against parallel imported products. The decision reaffirms the judicial practice that the import of non-counterfeit goods without the express permission of the trademark owner is not illegal in China, provided that the imported products comply with China's compulsory certification requirements and the importer does not modify, in any way, the imported product.
In China, an individual's name right is no longer protectable after their death. Although Marlon Brando passed away in July 2004, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) recently rejected an application to register the trademark MARLON BRANDO and the Chinese equivalent in respect of goods in Class 3. The CNIPA held that the registration and use of the trademarks would violate Article 10.1.8 of the Trademark Law.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak, the State Administration for Market Regulation recently issued the Notice on Eliminating Copycats of Famous Hospitals and Other Healthcare Institutions. The notice aims to eliminate from the healthcare industry copycats that are free-riding on the reputation of trade names or famous hospitals – in particular, 'Union', 'Huashan', 'Xiangya', 'West China', 'Qilu', 'Tongji' and 'Tiantan'.
The Supreme People's Court recently published the draft Judicial Interpretation on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in Civil Litigation on Trade Secret Violation. The draft judicial interpretation provides further details on several matters, including what can be protected as a trade secret, what protective measures a trade secret owner should apply and how damages should be calculated.
The Supreme People's Court recently released the Opinions on Tightening Sanctions on Intellectual Property Infringement (for Consultation) for public opinion until 31 July 2020. The opinions contain 21 articles aimed at strengthening preservation measures, stopping infringement in a timely manner by ordering cessation, enhancing compensation and reinforcing criminal crackdown on IP violations.
The Supreme Court recently released an exposure draft on several provisions concerning evidence specifically relating to civil litigations involving IP matters. The draft contains five chapters and 53 provisions, encompassing aspects of the provision of evidence by the parties, the investigation of evidence, the collection and preservation of evidence, evidence exchanging and cross-examination, and evidence assessment and admissibility. The draft also attempts to codify some customary practices.
The Supreme People's Court recently released for public comment two judicial interpretations that address online IP infringement. Some of the drafts' articles reflect government commitments made during the first phase of the China-US Economic and Trade Agreement, including exempting brand owners from liability for submitting erroneous takedown notices provided that they are submitted in good faith and imposing liability for takedown notices and counter notifications that are submitted in bad faith.
In March 2020 the China National Intellectual Property Administration released an exposure draft on the Guide for Determining Geographical Indications as Generic Names. The guide is considered a response to the first phase of the China-US Economic and Trade Agreement, since it completely absorbs the standards for determining generic names stipulated in the agreement.
The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) recently issued the new Administrative Measures for the Use of Special Marks Reserved for Geographical Indications (GIs) (Trial). The special mark reserved for GIs is an official mark for consumers to verify GI-protected products in China and can be used by authorised producers, members affiliated with rights holders of GI collective trademarks, licensees of a GI certification trademark and other parties subject to CNIPA recordal and publication.
In response to the Sino-American trade agreement signed in January 2020, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) recently issued a notice soliciting public opinions on two documents concerning the enforcement of IP judgments. The promulgation of the SPC's documents may allow the judiciary to review the entire enforcement regime to further clarify and simplify not only enforcement procedures, but also bankruptcy procedures.
The Beijing IP Court recently held that two Tianjin-based companies had infringed Chinese Patent 201310030601.2, which is owned by the largest specialty mushroom grower in China, Shanghai Finc Food Co Ltd. This is the first case concluded in the Beijing IP Court to involve an infringement dispute concerning a patented microorganism per se.
The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) recently invalidated Daimler's Design Patent 201430032306.6 regarding the new Mercedes-Benz Smart generation following a validity challenge by Shandong Lichi, a Chinese new energy vehicle company. The CNIPA held that the two designs in the patent at issue had no obvious difference to the prior designs, which had been published in news media.
In China, foreign brand owners are becoming increasingly concerned about unauthorised retailers using their trademarks on signboards. The legal issue is complicated by the fact that these unauthorised retailers are selling genuine goods which originate from parallel imports.
The Patent Law provides that a design for which a patent is granted must significantly differ from prior designs. Further, the similarity between a patent design and a prior design must be determined from the perspective of ordinary consumers in the relevant market. To this end, the Supreme People's Court uses certain parameters, including so-called 'design space'. This article analyses the application of these parameters in a recent design patent administrative suit.
The fourth amendment of the Trademark Law came into force on 1 November 2019. The revised Article 4 of the law now states that a "trademark filed in bad faith without intention to use shall be rejected". This modified version is also mentioned in Article 44.1 of the law, which provides that any trademark registered in violation of Article 4 and any trademark registered by fraudulent or unfair means will be declared invalid.
China has witnessed a number of significant developments in biotechnology patent prosecution in recent months. The amended Patent Examination Guidelines, which the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) has been implementing since 1 November 2019, brought significant changes to the use of human embryonic stem cells. Further, in one of the few cases of its kind, the Supreme People's Court overturned a CNIPA re-examination decision in a patent administrative litigation.
In November 2019 the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) stated that when a trademark embossed on a bottle cannot be removed, recyclers should ensure that they cover said trademark with another label to avoid the likelihood of confusion. The CNIPA added that affixing another label bearing another trademark on a bottle, leaving the original embossed trademark visible, is insufficient to avoid confusion.
When goods are manufactured in China by an original equipment manufacturer factory for export, the foreign buyer is not always the owner in China of the trademark that is affixed on the goods. But what if the trademark is registered in the name of a third party and such third party decides to sue the factory for infringement and stop the export of the goods? This is a long-debated question of which the courts have demonstrated different understandings.
A recent Supreme People's Court (SPC) decision clarified the requirements to cite the prior use defence under Article 59.3 of the Trademark Law. In this regard, the court stated that the only person eligible to cite this defence is the prior user themselves and that such use must have occurred prior to the registration application and the trademark owner's use of the registered trademark. Further, for the first time, the SPC made it clear that geographical scope is a key element in defining the original scope of use.