The Beijing court authorities published 18 judge candidates for the newly established Beijing IP Court. This indicates a significant step towards the official launch of the new court. A week ago, the names of the president and two vice presidents of the new court were also published. People widely believe a strong judge leadership is in place for the Beijing specialized IP court.
After an expedited legislative process over the last nine months, China’s legislature passed a bill on August 31 announcing that three specialised IP courts are to open in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The new courts are scheduled to open by the end of 2014. Now with the appointment of the new judges, Beijing IP Court will officially take cases as early as November 6, 2014.
All three new courts will be intermediate-level courts, meaning that they will handle many cases as the court of first instance and their decisions may be appealed to provincial-level higher people’s courts.
The establishment of these courts is designed to address technology-centric matters such as patent and trade secret cases. The new courts will act as the court of first instance for civil infringement cases involving patents, new plant varieties, layout designs of integrated circuit and trade secrets.
In addition, the Beijing Specialised IP Court will act as the court of first instance for reviewing all patent validity and patent prosecution decisions issued by the Patent Review Board. The rationale is that a specialised court will deliver more consistent decisions – especially on patent or IP cases involving complicated technological matters – because cases will be heard by a small number of specialised judges.
While debate is still ongoing between leading scholars, IP judges and IP practitioners about what form the new IP courts should take, the general feeling is that the launch of the new courts is indicative of the government’s pro-IP policy. The development proves that China continues to have a strong interest in improving the quality of IP rights enforcement. The new courts may have some incentives to deliver positive results. For IPR owners, several particular areas to watch for are:
· whether the new Beijing court will improve the way that bad-faith trademark applications are handled,
· whether the courts will be more aggressive in awarding damages and remedies such as preliminary injunctions and evidence preservation for patent, copyright and trademark cases.
· whether the courts will conduct more and effective evidence preservation and preliminary injunctions in patent, copyright and trade secret cases; and
· Whether the younger and more experienced group of judge body in the new court will really make a difference to the quality of IP adjudication.
The same legislative bill that launched the courts requires the Supreme People’s Court to report back the outcome in three years. The feedback from the IP world may be helpful in deciding whether and how the specialised IP courts should evolve to the next level.