Nation's IPR suits see spike in 2012

Updated: 2013-04-23 00:29

By Wang Zhenghua in Suzhou, Jiangsu (China Daily)

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60,000 charged with infringement, selling substandard products

Courts across China handled 83,850 civil lawsuits over intellectual property rights in 2012, up 44.1 percent year-on-year, according to an IPR white paper that the country's top court released on Monday.

Because of the rising awareness about IPR issues, courts in China also saw a sharp rise in the number of related civil lawsuits they received last year, said Sun Jungong, spokesman for the Supreme People's Court, at a news conference on Monday about the white paper.

Also in 2012, courts across the country received about 87,420 new civil lawsuits over IPR issues, a year-on-year jump of 46 percent.

More than 60,000 suspects were detained for IPR infringement and producing and selling substandard commodities in 43,000 cases in 2012, with a total value of 11.3 billion yuan ($1.83 billion), according to the white paper.

The iPad trademark dispute between US tech giant Apple Inc and Shenzhen's Proview topped a list of 10 major court cases involving IPR infringement last year.

Apple eventually agreed to pay $60 million to Proview in a court-mediated settlement in July.

The court also released 50 typical IPR cases from 2012 and, for the first time, 10 "innovative cases" involving new legal fields or matters, which experts said can be used as a guide on how to handle similar lawsuits.

Wang Chuang, vice-president of the third tribunal for civil trials at the top court, said the number of IPR cases involving an overseas party is on the rise, and there's an increase in the number of cases in which transnational companies are accused of infringing rights of Chinese firms.

Without disclosing an exact number, Wang said that transnational companies are becoming defendants of IPR lawsuits in a rising number of sectors.

"The IPR rules are about the same around the world, but transnational companies should still carefully study the laws and regulations of China to avoid infringing others' intellectual property rights," Wang said.

He also said transnational companies can have full confidence in China's judicial protection of intellectual property rights because of improvements China has made in recent years on the issue.

Wang Yancang, president of Suzhou's Huqiu district court, said Chinese companies are gaining awareness of IPR protection issues, and although foreign companies taking their Chinese counterparts to court is still more common, the number of cases in which Chinese companies are accusing foreign players of IPR infringement is on the rise.

Two of the most common sectors are infringement on the patent and trademark of Chinese companies, she said.

She cited the case of Shanghai PepsiCo, one of the soft-drink maker's joint ventures in China, being sued for infringing on a small brewery's rights to the "Blue Storm" trademark in 2007 — an incident that shows Chinese people and companies are increasingly safeguarding their intellectual property rights.

In that case, the High People's Court of East China's Zhejiang province reversed an earlier verdict of a lower court and decided in favor of small brewery Lanye, awarding it 3 million yuan as compensation from PepsiCo for the trademark infringement.