Since the end of 2017, the China Insurance Regulatory Committee has taken numerous regulatory measures to address disorder in the insurance market, some of which have brought certain domestic life insurers to task. The measures are notable, as they underline a renewed emphasis on controlling financial risks, which is of utmost concern for the government.
The commissioner of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) recently delivered a keynote speech at the National Administration for Industry and Commerce and Market Supervision Conference, unveiling various 2017 statistics and the SAIC's new 2018 initiatives on trademark practice.
Following a lengthy battle regarding imitators' use of the letter 'N' on their trainers, the Supreme People's Court recently accepted New Balance's application for a retrial. The court may see this case as a good opportunity to apply the new direction regarding how courts should assess the likelihood of confusion. Alternatively, it may consider that the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board and the Beijing High Court erred when they ignored the prior judgments affirming the protection of trade dress.
The Supreme People's Court recently promulgated the Circular on Creating a Favourable Legal Landscape to Facilitate Innovation and the Start-Up of Entrepreneurs by Leveraging the Adjudicatory Function of the Court, in a bid to reassure the business sector. With respect to the protection of IP rights, the court has vowed to improve the rule of evidence to ensure that it applies to IP rights litigation, promote the 'three-in-one' system and establish a judicial assessment mechanism for damages, among other things.
The Beijing IP Court has ruled that an internet service provider which published rules stating that it had verified the legal status of vendors on its platform had to guarantee that the products sold on its platform were genuine. Despite taking measures after being officially informed of an infringement, the service provider remained jointly and severally liable for the infringement as, by publishing the rules, it had endorsed the vendor and lost its strictly neutral position. Therefore, the safe harbour principle did not apply.
The Zhongshan Intermediate Court has ruled that a trademark owner and his company must bear joint and several liability for the compensation of Rmb3 million after the distinctive element of their registered trademark was subtly modified in practice to appear visually similar to the trademark 3M. The case shows the courts' determination to penalise trademark infringement, particularly where a defendant is reluctant to disclose its accounts.
The State Intellectual Property Office recently issued a decision amending the Guidelines for Patent Examination. The revised guidelines explicitly prescribe that an invention involving a computer program is not the same as a computer program per se, which broadens the scope of eligible subject matters in this field. The guidelines came into effect in April 2017.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) recently promulgated its Plan for Building the National Carbon Emission Trading Market (Power Generation Industry). According to the NDRC, the plan's implementation will play an important role in establishing the national carbon market and constitutes the official start of the national carbon emission trading system. However, a robust carbon emission trading system and a fair market trading environment for investors are still a long way off.
The Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB) recently launched an online searchable database which will make its decisions publicly available. This announcement follows the 2016 initiative which saw the TRAB publish a number of randomly selected decisions each month. The database aims to make a greater number of TRAB decisions publicly available in order to increase transparency.
The State Council recently announced a pilot programme that has lifted the requirements on foreign-invested banks entering the renminbi yuan (Rmb) business market in Beijing until May 5 2018. As a result, foreign-invested banks are no long required to have operated for more than one year before applying to conduct Rmb business in Beijing. The programme is another step towards encouraging foreign investment in the financial sector.
The National Development and Reform Commission recently released price conduct guidelines for business operators active in the drugs prone to shortages and active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) markets. The guidelines strengthen the API market's price supervision mechanism, clearly regulate market pricing behaviour with regard to drugs prone to shortages and APIs and provide practical guidance for relevant pharmaceutical companies with regard to their pricing behaviour.
Following the resumption of bilateral trade treaty talks between China and the United States, a 100-day plan was mooted which promised to improve trade ties going forward. One area of focus in this regard has been the foreign ownership limits that apply to inbound investment in Chinese financial services groups, including those pertaining to the country's insurance industry. This policy shift has given rise to expectations that further foreign investment in the insurance industry will increase significantly.
After four drafts, the revised Anti-unfair Competition Law 1993 has finally entered into force. Although the new law essentially maintains the concepts and principles of the original text, a number of changes have been introduced. The most significant change with regard to intellectual property is arguably the introduction in Article 6 of the expression 'a certain influence', which applies to signs and replaces the terms 'known' or 'well-known', which applied to products.
The China Trademark Office (CTMO) recently held that although the word marks in question were spelt differently, their similarities in terms of font, design and arrangement created a similar overall visual effect. As such, the coexistence of the marks in the market was likely to cause confusion among the relevant public with regard to the origin of the designated goods. The CTMO's comprehensive examination of the likelihood of confusion was in line with a recent Supreme People's Court interpretation.
The National People's Congress Standing Committee recently passed the long-awaited amendments to the Anti-unfair Competition Law, which will take effect in January 2018. This is the first time that the law has been amended and it will have a significant impact on business practice in China. In particular, the amended law includes a new section addressing internet-related unfair competition and offers practical and clear guidance for business operators on how to compete legally and fairly online.
Registering a three-dimensional (3D) trademark is difficult and the Chinese courts have failed to develop reliable jurisprudence on this matter. However, a recent Trademark Review and Adjudication Board decision concerning the world-famous Little Trees car air fresheners reaffirms the registrability and inherent distinctiveness of 3D marks that comprise the unusual shape of a product.
Sources indicate that the Beijing High Court recently released the Provisions on the Adjustment of the Courts' Jurisdiction over Civil IP Cases in Beijing. The new provisions outline the jurisdiction of the Beijing High Court, the Beijing IP Court and the lower-level Beijing courts and abolish the Provisions on the Jurisdiction over First-Instance Civil IP Disputes Heard by People's Courts at Various Levels in Beijing 2008.
The People's Bank of China recently released revised measures for the registration of a pledge of accounts receivable. The revised measures have broadened the definition of 'accounts receivable' and introduced a procedure for registering to transfer accounts receivable. For flexibility and convenience, the revised measures also adjust the registration term of a pledge of accounts receivable and extend the time limit for notifying a pledgee of any objection to its registration.
The Supreme People's Court recently reversed a Guangdong High Court judgment and held that the trademark and packaging used on a product may constitute separate IP rights. The case serves as a reminder that where products are sold by a licensee in packaging which differs from that of the licensor, the licensee can claim independent IP rights. The licence agreement should therefore provide that on termination any packaging rights will remain attached to the trademark.