Last month, the EU-China IPR2 Project, focused on enhancing the enforcement of IP rights in China, was introduced to representatives of European industry, the national patent offices and European intellectual property experts by the European Commission and the European Patent Office (EPO). Few would question the importance of their agenda, but I would like to acknowledge the progress that Chinese IPR has already made in recent years.
Actually, of the IPR cases settled in Chinese court during 2007, no less than 3/4 had an outcome in favour of the IP owner, regardless of the nationality of the plaintiff. Implemented as late as 1985, patent law is still young in China but I think we should have faith in the country’s remarkable ability for change and development. Just consider the numbers: it took 15 years for SIPO to receive its first million patent applications but when they passed the four-million-mark late last year, the last million had been filed in just 18 months*.
The EU-China IPR2 Project is in itself quite interesting. In many aspects, Chinese IPR law is already shaped with Europe as a model. Now, for four years and with an investment of more than EUR 16 million, enforcement of IP rights in China will be improved through a project partly managed by EPO. The project does not address legislative changes but will provide technical support to, and building the capacity of, the different levels of the Chinese legislative, judicial and administrative authorities to help improve their effec-tiveness; as well as improving access to information for users and officials and reinforcing support to right holders. This all is very welcome and for us European-based IP Attorneys with an interest in China it is of extra interest to know that much of the expertise in this development is drawn from our region.
Of course, when it comes to China, changes are many and often dramatic and even more will happen during 2008, at least judging from China’s IPR Strategy Action Plan for IPR Protection for 2008 which was announced at the end of March. This plan contains 10 aspects including 280 concrete meas-ures relating i.a. to legislation, law enforcement, training and public awareness-raising activities. So keep your eyes open and stay updated.
* This number includes all three types of Chinese patent rights: inventions-creations (protecting any new technical solution relating to a product, a process or improvement), utility models (protecting any new technical solution relating to the shape, the structure or their combination of a product, which is suitable for practical use) and designs (protecting any new design of the shape, the pattern or their combination, or the combination of the colour with shape or pattern, of a product, which creates an aesthetic feeling and is suitable for industrial application).
Maria Stenbäck, European Patent Attorney