China Issues New Appellate Procedural Rules for IP Cases

By Han-Mei Tso

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China recently passed new procedural rules regarding appeals in intellectual property  (IP) related cases.  According to the new rules, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of China becomes the only appellate court for judgments and procedural rulings originating from the courts of the first instances in IP related cases.  The new rules will take effect on January 1, 2019.

One major factor in prompting these rule changes is that a high technical knowledge is typically required in certain IP cases, such as those in relation to patents, new varieties of plants, layout designs of integrated circuits, trade secrets, computer software, and antitrust law.  Accordingly, the appeals of both civil and administrative cases involving IP rights will be consolidated at the top of the country’s judiciary.  However, one exception includes civil cases involving design patents. For design patents, appeals will still be reviewed by the provincial high courts.  This exception exists because disputes over design patents are typically regarded as being less technical in nature.

Currently, as a general rule, intermediate courts have jurisdiction over first instances of IP cases in civil court.  Likewise, the Beijing IP Court has sole jurisdiction in deciding initial matters for administrative cases in IP.  Appeals are then made to the high court in each province or the Beijing High Court for the cases originating from the Beijing IP Court.  Due to the highly technical nature and complexity of these IP cases, past appeal cases sometimes experienced inconsistent rulings between different cases.  Thus, the new procedural rules are intended to help unify the legal standards and provide similar results across all IP cases.

Once appeals go to the SPC, its decisions will be final and take immediate effect.  If the parties believe this newly established IP tribunal errs on its judgment, a retrial petition can be filed with the SPC.  Moreover, the SPC is in the process of drafting judicial explanations to clarify certain issues related to acceptance of appeals, trial supervision procedures, operation of judicial power, etc.

Osha Liang Insights will continue to report more details and further developments regarding the new appellate procedure for IP cases in China.