For a long time China used to be a free haven for copycats, the Wild West of Intellectual Property (IE). This image is no longer entirely accurate, as China has started to take IE protection seriously.
When it comes to IP, the situation in China is changing extremely quickly. This has everything to do with the country’s rapid development. Its industries are making major leaps forward in the field of innovation, as a result of which Chinese inventors have now also started to protect their rights. On top of that, the country's age-old copycat reputation is frightening off international investors, so China wants to clear this blemish on its reputation as quickly as possible.
The fact that China is serious about this is evident from the establishment of three new courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou that are specialised in Intellectual Property. This is giving a tremendous boost to the professionalism, speed, reliability and efficiency of the administration justice in China when it comes to IP. Until recently the impartiality of local judges may have been questionable. The professional judges of the three new courts are a lot less dependent on local ties. This increases the possibilities for European companiesto claim rights in China.
The Chinese court system is already processing more than 100,000 IP cases a year. Around ten percent of these are being heard by the three new courts. Big IP law suits are battled out in public, as a result of which the knowledge about IP, patents, rights and abuse are becoming increasingly embedded in society. This will lead to China becoming more and more in step with the rest of the world when it comes to IP.
Do you homework
If you want to successfully call a Chinese company to account with respect to an infringement, it is vitally important that you carefully do your homework. Compliance with all formalities is an absolute must and an eloquent local lawyer is invaluable. In addition, it is worthwhile registering your rights with the customs authorities. In return for a small fee they will then inform you when they come across any items that infringe your rights.
Finally, it is useful to make use of utility models. This quick and cheap variant on a patent deters infringers and is a right that is just as effective as a patent. French electronics firm Schneider experienced this when it tried to bring an improved version of the circuit breaker onto the market. This new variant had been protected by a utility model by one of its competitors, the CHINT group. Schneider had to transfer a record sum of fifty million US dollars in damages to the Chinese manufacturer, who had made smart use of the Chinese utility model. Western companies can take advantage of this, too. Not everything can be protected by utility models, but we would be more than happy to advise you on this issue.