I. Basic Situation of the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights
China has always adopted a responsible attitude to actively promoting IPR protection. While adhering to the international rules on IPR protection, China has decided on a level of IPR protection appropriate for its own national situation, and made great efforts to balance the interests among intellectual property creators, users and the general public, so as to create a benign circle for the creation and use of intellectual property.
Major progress has been made on IPR protection in China over the past years thanks to concerted efforts made by people from all walks of life.
- A relatively complete system of laws and regulations that covers a wide range of subjects and is in line with generally accepted international rules has been established and keeps improving. Since the 1980s, the state has promulgated and put into effect a number of laws and regulations covering the major contents in IPR protection. These include the "Patent Law of the People's Republic of China," "Trademark Law of the People's Republic of China," "Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China," "Regulations on the Protection of Computer Software," "Regulations on the Protection of Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits," "Regulations on the Collective Management of Copyright," "Regulations on the Management of Audio-Video Products," "Regulations on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants," "Regulations on the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights by the Customs," "Regulations on the Protection of Special Signs," and "Regulations on the Protection of Olympic Logos." China has also promulgated a series of relevant rules for the implementation of these laws and regulations, and their legal interpretation. As a result, the system of laws and regulations on IPR protection in China has been continuously improved. In 2001, around the time when China was admitted into the WTO, in order to provide effective legal protection to IPR, the country made comprehensive revisions to the laws and regulations regarding IPR protection and their legal interpretation. While more emphasis is given to promoting the progress of science and technology and innovation with regard to legislative intent, content of rights, standards of protection and means of legal remedy, the revisions brought the laws and regulations into conformity with the WTO's "Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights" and other international rules on IPR protection.
- A coordinated and efficient work system and a law enforcement mechanism have been established and improved. In its practice of IPR protection, a two-way parallel protection mode, namely, administrative and judicial protection, has emerged in China. Several departments in China are assigned with the duty to protect IPR. They include primarily the State Intellectual Property Office, State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Press and Publication General Administration, State Copyright Bureau, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Agriculture, State Forestry Administration, Ministry of Public Security, General Administration of Customs, Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate. For many years these departments have done effective work in their respective fields. To further strengthen IPR protection, in 2004 China established the State IPR Protection Work Team headed by a vice-premier of the State Council, responsible for planning and coordinating the work regarding IPR protection throughout the country. Its office, located in the Ministry of Commerce, handles the routine work of the team.
In recent years, the state has increased work contacts between administrative law enforcement organs and public security organs and people's procuratorates with respect to IPR protection. In October 2000, the relevant departments jointly issued the "Notice on Strengthening Cooperation and Coordination in the Work of Investigating and Dealing with Criminal Cases that Infringe Intellectual Property Rights," which contains clear provisions on relevant issues. In July 2001, the State Council promulgated the "Regulations on the Transfer of Suspected Criminal Cases by Administrative Law Enforcement Organs," which includes clear provisions on how the administrative law enforcement organs should transfer suspected criminal cases to public security organs in a timely fashion. In March 2004, the relevant departments jointly issued the "Opinions on Increasing Work Contacts between Administrative Law Enforcement Organs and Public Security Organs and People's Procuratorates." A work mechanism involving the coordination of administrative law enforcement and criminal law enforcement has been established, creating a joint power to deal with IPR infringements. This ensures that suspected criminal cases enter the judicial process promptly. In recent years, the judicial organs have adjudicated a large number of IPR infringement cases according to law. In civil cases, the infringed parties have received timely compensation for their financial losses, and IPR-related crimes have been effectively combated.
- Administrative law enforcement has been strengthened in IPR protection. As gradual improvements are made in the legal system on IPR protection, China has shifted its focus from legislation to law enforcement. Administrative law enforcement has been enhanced through the combination of routine management and supervision with special crackdown campaigns. In August 2004, the Chinese government decided to launch a special one-year campaign to protect IPR across the country from September 2004 to August 2005. It was decided at the national TV and telephone conference on rectification and standardization of the market economic order convened by the State Council on March 31, 2005 that the campaign was extended to the end of 2005. With unified planning, the relevant departments have investigated and dealt with major IPR infringement cases, focusing on major fields in the protection of trademark rights, copyrights and patent rights, on major links in the import and export of goods, all types of exhibitions and wholesale markets of commodities, and on key places where producers and sellers of counterfeit goods were known to be concentrated. Their quick action and strict law enforcement efforts have dealt a blow on IPR offenders, achieving positive results.
- Efforts are being made to heighten the awareness of the general public about IPR. The Chinese government attaches great importance to publicity concerning IPR. Beginning in 2004, the state designated the week from April 20 to 26 every year as the "week for publicizing the importance of IPR protection." By making wide use of newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the Internet, and through holding seminars and knowledge contests, and making public interest advertisements, the government carries out publicity and education among the general public regarding IPR protection. The aim is to create a social atmosphere in which labor, knowledge, talent and creation are respected, and heighten the awareness of the general public regarding IPR.
- Actively fulfilling the international obligations to protect IPR. China has taken an active approach to joining major international conventions and agreements on IPR protection. Following its accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1980, China joined in succession more than ten international conventions, treaties, agreements and protocols, such as the "Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property," "Patent Cooperation Treaty," "Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure," "Locarno Agreement Establishing an International Classification for Industrial Designs," "Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks," "Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purpose of the Registration of Marks," "Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks," "Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights," "International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants," "Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works," "Universal Copyright Convention," and "Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication."
While strictly executing its international obligations in IPR protection, China has devoted great efforts to adjusting and improving international rules regarding IPR protection in order to let all countries of the world share the fruits and benefits brought about by the progress of science and technology. In recent years, China has held talks, and engaged in exchanges and cooperation with other countries, international organizations and foreign-invested enterprises in the field of IPR. At the suggestion of the United States, starting in 2003, China and the US have held a round-table conference on IPR every year, and reached agreement on many IPR-related issues at the two round-table conferences. In 2004, China and Europe held their first round of talks on IPR in Beijing. Initial agreement was reached between the two sides on matters of cooperation related to IPR. Relevant Chinese departments have established good cooperative relations with corresponding departments in several countries, and international organizations such as World Intellectual Property Organization and International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. In September 2003, a mechanism was established for regular contact and coordination between relevant Chinese departments and foreign-invested enterprises. Under the mechanism, a meeting is held every three months to solicit comments and suggestions from the foreign-invested enterprises on issues related to IPR protection.