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Everyone's Equal on IPR: Judge
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Foreign owners of intellectual property rights (IPR) receive the same protection as their Chinese counterparts, because local IPR laws are typically in tune with international ones, a senior judicial official said yesterday.

"China adheres to 'national treatment' principles for foreign rights holders, and they get due protection just like domestic holders," Cao Jianming, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, told China Daily.

Cao was commenting on the newly released list of the Top 10 civil IPR cases of 2006.

Involving disputes over patents, trademarks, copyright, unfair competition and new plant species, the cases have aroused extensive social attention. They have also resulted in the payment of more than 3.3 million yuan (US$427,500) in compensation, with the highest single payment being 864,000 yuan.

International brands such as Sony, Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, Nippon Paint, Chanel and New Balance have all filed and won IPR cases as plaintiffs.

Louis Vuitton won a trademark infringement suit against Carrefour's Shanghai joint venture for selling fake handbags.

In April 2006 it sued the supermarket after finding bags with either a trademark or pattern similar to those used by the designer label on sale at an outlet on Wuning Road.

Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court ordered Shanghai Carrefour Lianhua Supermarket Co Ltd to pay 300,000 yuan compensation.

Starbucks also won a trademark infringement and unfair competition dispute with the Shanghai Xingbake coffee shop chain.

Starbucks sued in December 2003 on grounds of the overuse of a shared Chinese name. Last year, Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court ordered Shanghai Xingbake to change its name and pay Starbucks 500,000 yuan.

Sony, too, won its dispute with Guangzhou Top Power Electronics Co Ltd, which it sued in April 2004, for infringing patent rights by making type QM71D batteries.

Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court ordered the Guangzhou firm to cease production, destroy stocks and moulds, and pay Sony 100,000 yuan compensation.

From 2002-06, courts dealt with 54,321 civil IPR cases on first trial and concluded 52,437. Of those 931 involved an overseas party.

Cao said that despite China's huge progress some developed countries keep applying pressure as global IPR competition intensifies.

He called on Western countries to choose dialogue to deal with disputes so as to increase understanding and reduce opposition.

"It is impossible to solve in a short time contradictions between China's economic and technical shortcomings as a developing country and the high IPR protection standards proposed by developed countries," Cao said.

(China Daily April 26, 2007)

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