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New approach to patent trials
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Foreign experts will be allowed to take part in patent rights trials involving foreign parties, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) said yesterday.

The move is one of a series of measures announced to improve the efficiency of intellectual property rights cases.

"Special policies and measures, and diversified methods will be introduced to help tackle the difficulties of establishing the facts in technical cases," SPC vice-president Cao Jianming told a national conference in Jinan, Shandong Province.

Courts should use more people with specialist technical backgrounds to serve on people's juries in IPR trials, and even invite renowned experts to serve as full jury members, Cao said.

Concerned parties will also be encouraged to bring people with technical experts into court to speak on issues relating to the case, he said.

"To improve the accuracy of deciding technical facts in such cases, local courts can also set up an expert consultation system," the Cao said.

"However, the consultants' opinions must be used only as reference for judges and not be presented as evidence."

Intellectual property rights are becoming increasingly significant in China. Last year, the number of domestic patent applications rose to more than 301,000, up nearly 35 percent on 2006, while foreign applications grew almost 14 percent to more than 50,000, according to the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO).

By the end of last year, the authorities had authorized some 2.1 million patents, almost 1.8 million of which were from China.

In recent years, technical lawsuits, especially those involving disputes over patent rights, have become increasingly complicated, and decisions made in courts have taken on much greater significance due to the potentially huge economic interests involved. Decisions can have a dramatic impact on the success of a company or even the existence of an industry, Cao said.

"Courts must strike a balance between the interests of rights holders, rights users and the public based on fundamental realities and policies," he said.

To accurately judge on patent rights infringements, the country has established mature judicial interpretation principles and judging methods, which combine both international conventions and Chinese characteristics, Cao said.

In addition, a new round of amendments to the Patent Law have been listed in the legislation planning of the State Council for this year, he said.

Of the 74,000 IPR-related trials handled by courts since 2001, more than 17,700 involved patent rights.

(China Daily February 20, 2008)

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