China Establishes Courts to Protect Intellectual Property and Improve Image

Allegory of Justice

China has long faced criticism over its supposedly lax protection of intellectual property. Years ago, they made the news after dozens of fake Apple stores were discovered throughout the country.Now the country has responded by establishing the first of many courts in Beijing that will handle trials on patents, trademarks and computer software issues.

By the end of the year, the Chinese government hopes to establish two other courts, one in Shanghai and one in southern Guangzhou, according to Wang Chuang, the deputy presiding judge for the IP division of the nation’s Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will also set up an intellectual property protection research center, said Wang. The court plans to train investigation officers who can offer expert advice in order to help judges reach their decisions.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative’s annual special report has named China on its watch list of countries needing to improve their intellectual property protection.

Wang, along with other government officials, believes that the establishment of the courts will be a good “step to promote the development of China’s emerging industries.”

This dedicated court also serves another purpose — helping China improve its international image.

Feng Xiaoqing, an intellectual property law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing explained that IP cases in China are a fairly recent development. “It might take a long time for the country to fundamentally improve its recognition and enforcement of IP protection,” Feng said.

But China is working to reform its patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret and other IP laws and regulations, in order to handle the complaints from international companies.

This year, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office cited China for inadequate trade secret protection and “indigenous innovation” policies that created a disadvantage for U.S. companies managing intellectual property for their products in China. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals were mentioned as a major concern in the report.

Counterfeit designer products are also a source of intellectual property theft in China, with handbags and other accessories accounting for much of the 9,000 tons of fakes seized last year — worth a collective $28 billion.

Kering SA, which owns luxury brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, filed a lawsuit back in July against eCommerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. over the counterfeits sold on their website.

The lawsuit, filed in New York, was withdrawn after the two companies agreed to cooperate on intellectual property protection in August.

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