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18 January 2021
The year 2020 started unexpectedly with the outbreak of COVID-19, an unprecedented global disruptor. While more time is needed to fathom to what extent the pandemic will affect the global economy, myriad industry sectors and, in particular, the legal profession, in-house counsel are unsurprisingly facing budgetary restraints and law firms are being met with slashed billable hours, shelved projects and cancelled in-person meetings. People are quickly adapting to the new normal, with traditional face-to-face attorney-client meetings largely replaced by virtual meetings and IP offices and the courts moving most case hearings online.
During this time of volatility, China's legislature has completed the overhaul of an amendment to patent and copyright law and promulgated varied judicial interpretations and policy documents projected to bring substantial changes to the nation's IP landscape from 2021.
On 15 January 2020 China and the United States signed the Economic and Trade Agreement (Phase One), under which China has committed to obligations covering a wide range of IP issues, including:
In 2020 China promulgated a series of laws and regulations which were created to both satisfy China's own demand and echo the foregoing agreement.
The most notable piece of legislation introduced in 2020 was the amendment to the Patent Law, which was finally passed after several years of discussions. The amendment introduces numerous major reforms, including with regard to:
China has also refined its trade secrets regime. The Supreme People's Court promulgated a comprehensive judicial interpretation for civil cases – the Provisions on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in Adjudicating Civil Cases Involving Infringement of Trade Secret – which provides:
Further, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate jointly promulgated a judicial interpretation for criminal cases – the Interpretation on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in Handling Intellectual Property Criminal Cases (III) – which stipulates the criteria for determining that a trade secret infringement has met the threshold for pursuing criminal liability of the infringer. Moreover, the State Administration for Market Regulation published a draft rule regarding administrative enforcement of trade secrets, which is still under discussion.
The Supreme People's Court promulgated a strand of important judicial rules that will guide judicial practice in a broad manner, including:
In addition, the Supreme People's Court promulgated several policy provisions which aim to foster a friendly environment for IP owners in China, including:
There are still many legislative initiatives in the pipeline. For instance:
These well-coordinated legislative efforts ensure that parties will have detailed rules and criteria to follow and will improve the consistency, predictability and transparency of IP protection in China.
For further information on this topic please contact Feng (Janet) Zheng at Wanhuida Intellectual Property by telephone (+86 10 6892 1000) or email (email@example.com). The Wanhuida Intellectual Property website can be accessed at www.wanhuida.com.
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