College student volunteers show their resolution to fight counterfeits and piracy in Anhui province. To increase efficiency in intellectual property protection, the Chinese government has decided to start an integrated enforcement force in piloted cities. [Photo by Wang Biao/China Daily]
Deputies of China's top legislature, the National People's Congress, and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body, called for intellectual property reforms in administrative and judicial systems at their ongoing annual plenary sessions, also known as "the two sessions".
Delivering his annual Government Work Report on Sunday, Premier Li Keqiang noted that China will also pilot comprehensive IP administration and improve existing systems concerned with IP creation, protection and usage.
The State Council released a policy in December aimed at creating a pilot program for comprehensive IP administration. Under the current system, multiple government departments are involved in IP governance.
They include the State Intellectual Property Office, which is in charge of patent administration; the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which oversees trademark matters; and the National Copyright Administration, which supervises copyright issues.
This multi-channel management mechanism is also used by local governments, which needs reform to ensure stronger IP protection and improved government efficiency, according to the policy document.
To address the problem, the pilot program will feature an integrated enforcement team, according to industry insiders.
The first batch of cities to adopt the pilot program is expected to be announced this March, according to an official familiar with the IP administrative reforms, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
SIPO, SAIC and NCA are currently working with other government agencies to finalize the list.
Li Xin, a CPPCC National Committee member from Guangdong province in South China, called for the province to be included in the first batch of cities. "Guangdong meets all the requirements for a pilot city stipulated in the policy," Li said.
The policy outlined that several cities should feature in the first batch, and they should demonstrate innovative flair, an accelerated pace of economic transformation and marked progress in IP-driven development.
Shanghai's Pudong New Area, which is home to a free-trade zone, launched an integrated IP administration and enforcement system in January 2015.
The city is also home to one of China's three IP-dedicated courts, with the other two being located in Beijing and Guangzhou.
Zhao Wen, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, who is from Shanghai, suggested extending IP courts' jurisdiction to include criminal cases.
Currently, the IP courts are authorized to hear civil and administrative IP cases, which differs from the practice in many other courts, where one team hears the three types of IP cases, Zhao said.
Six provincial high courts, 95 city-level intermediate courts and 104 lower-level courts had adopted the integrated practice as of July 2016.
"Top policymakers need to place more emphasis on IP case jurisdiction, the structure of administrative departments and discipline in schools in order to improve technological innovation," Zhao said.
While Zhao called for existing IP courts to have wider jurisdiction, other members are seeking support for the establishment of new courts.
Zhang Jian, an NPC deputy and president of the Anhui High People's Court, said the province will explore the feasibility of setting up an IP court in its 2017 plan for implementing the country's IP-driven development strategy.
With rich research resources including the University of Sciences and Technology of China, Hefei, capital of the province, has been named a national pilot innovative city and granted National IP Model City status. It was given approval to become a comprehensive national science center in January, the second such center in the country after Shanghai.
The intermediate court in Hefei established its IP tribunal in 1996 and the court in the Hefei State Hi-tech Industry Development Zone is recognized as the province's pioneer of integrated IP legal practices. The two courts have heard nearly half of the province's IP cases, according to Zhang.
"To meet the pressing need for both IP protection and the accelerated development of technological innovations, I have suggested establishing an IP court in Hefei," Zhang said.