2017 FICPI China Symposium in Hangzhou

By: Han-Mei Tso and Jude Yi

The International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys (FICPI) China Symposium (Hangzhou) 2017, also called the 6th China IP Symposium, was held in Hangzhou, the capital city of eastern China’s Zhejiang province, from March 30 to April 1, 2017. Hangzhou, a “Historic and Cultural City”, was most recently known for successfully hosting the 11th G20 Summit. Additionally, Osha Liang’s China office is located in Hangzhou.

The event drew over 250 attendees from countries all over the world, including IP professionals and those who have great interest in IP matters. The Symposium focused on the latest developments of the Chinese intellectual property system and larger global trends. Hot topics included Opportunities and Challenges Patent Agencies Are Facing, New Trends of Patent Judicial Protection, and Examination of Computer Software Related Patent Application et al. Highlighted below are some of the remarkable discussions that took place during the event.      

Opportunities and Challenges Patent Agencies Are Facing

Four speakers from China, Japan, India, and the United Kingdom, respectively, shared their insights into the current landscape of IP services both globally and locally, and analyzed the challenges imposed upon traditional IP service providers, i.e. IP law firms and agencies, as non-professionals intrude in IP professional practice and as IT systems and Internet services improve at such a fast pace. An ongoing issue discussed throughout the session was whether evolving artificial intelligence, such as machine translation supported by Neural Networks Learning, will threaten the need for the expertise of IP professionals and to what extent it could present a problem in the coming years. Interestingly, this issue lit up an enthusiastic debate between the speakers and the audience during the Q&A session. As the speaker from China said during his presentation, both “pessimists” and “optimists” exist when we are faced with such a reality.

New Trends of Patent Judicial Protection

In this session, Mr. Jun Yi, the director of the Technical Investigation Department of Beijing Intellectual Property Court, brought a report of how the Beijing IP Court has operated over the past two years, since its founding on November 6, 2014. As statistics show, cases filed and settled have increased over 40% from 2015 to 2016, exhibiting the expansion of IP-related contentious matters and the popularity of the Beijing IP Court as well. Mr. Yi also expressed confidence in the Court’s robust capability of trying patent infringement cases, while referring specifically to the system of Technical Investigation Officers utilized by the court.

Another Chinese speaker, Mr. Fenbo Tao of Liu Shen & Associates, discussed a case study on a recent shocking – in terms of damages – case decided by the Beijing IP Court on December 8, 2016, known as the Watchdata v. Hengbao case. The Court awarded the plaintiff Watchdata 49 million CNY, which was the highest damages award issued by this Court since it began. Mr. Tao guided the audience through the process of how the Beijing IP Court calculated and determined the damages amount, showing the Court’s willingness to enhance reasonable patent infringement damages supported by clear evidence.

Examination of Computer Software Related Patent Application

As far as computer software related patent applications are concerned, the world’s IP systems have been haunted by more uncertainties and difficulties than most other technical fields. The speakers of this session, who came from different regions of the world, depicted the ebb and flow of computer software-related patents or patent applications around the globe. Ms. Yonghong Li, the General Director of Electrical Department of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), delivered her presentation on the revisions of the Chinese Guidelines for Patent Examination on April 1, 2017, which had just come into effect that very day. Director Li articulated with impressive clarity the rationale behind the amendments to the 9th Chapter of the Guidelines that regulates SIPO’s examination of software-related patent applications, showing SIPO’s open and positive attitude towards these types of patent applications. For more information on the amendments and the resulting implications, please see Osha Liang’s previous newsletter. [LINK]

Following this discussion, Osha Liang managing partner, Mr. Jonathan Osha, gave a presentation on the current situation and concerns over a lack of clear standard with respect to subject matter eligibility of patents on computer-implemented inventions in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Alice[1] decision issued in 2014. Despite the unstable conditions in the U.S. relating to eligibility of patents on computer-implemented inventions, Mr. Osha provided valuable recommendations on how to prepare patent applications for computer-implemented inventions to better ensure its patent eligibility.

The event closed with the traditional Chinese roundtable banquet after the last session and was followed by an excursion around the beautiful city of Hangzhou the next day.

[1] Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014)