China to introduce specialist intellectual property (IP) courts – striving to end the wild, wild, east?

Proposals to establish specialist IP courts in China have moved forward and pilot courts are being explored in the first-tier cities of Beijing, Guangdong and Shanghai. We do not have a start date yet but the proposals will move China more in line with Japan and Korea, who both have specialist IP courts (as do many countries). At present many IP disputes in China are heard by quasi-judicial administrative agencies rather than courts. China is trying to improve its reputation as a lawless place for IP.

The Chinese IP system is largely used by Chinese companies and the driver to change is probably to raise confidence in the system. Chinese applicants filed 5% of European patent (EPO) applications in 2013, which is behind Sweden but above Spain. In 2009, just four years earlier, China filed 2.5 % of EPO applications. The percentage of EPO patents filed by China has doubled in four years. China’s use of its own patent system dwarfs its use of the European system, as there are about 150 times more patent applications filed in China (mainly by Chinese entities) than China files at the EPO.  Given these statistics, it is no wonder that China needs an IP court structure that the country can rely on.