May 1, 2014 2:05 pm JST

China to set up intellectual property courts

GAKU SHIMADA, Nikkei staff writer

BEIJING -- China plans to establish courts specializing in intellectual property-related cases as early as spring next year.

     The government in Beijing plans to first set up intellectual property courts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, which are home to many foreign companies. Other courts elsewhere in the country will be set up later.

     Strong international criticism of China's inadequate protection of intellectual property rights led to the decision to set up the courts. Fake brand-name products and copied technologies from foreign companies can be found across the country.

     China was again put on a "priority watch list" in an April 30 U.S. government report on countries not doing enough to protect intellectual property rights.

     Beijing hopes the judicial system reforms will help attract more foreign companies and bring about trade agreements with foreign countries.

     Attention will now shift to whether the planned new courts can protect intellectual property rights.

     China's highest court will work out the details of how the legal institutions dealing with intellectual property will operate.

     Intellectual property-related cases in China are currently handled by ordinary courts. Many experts say that each trial takes a long time to be completed and that ordinary courts lack judges well versed in intellectual property rights.

     The establishment of special courts is expected to speed up the settlement of intellectual property-related lawsuits. The number of intellectual property-related lawsuits in China is rising, although precise figures are difficult to obtain.

     According to estimates by the Japan Patent Office, the number of intellectual property-related lawsuits in China came to about 7,800 in 2011, up 140% from five years earlier.

     The Chinese move to set up intellectual property courts comes amid a slowdown in the domestic economy. A Chinese Communist Party plenum held last November adopted a road map for medium-term economic reforms.

     At the conference, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed his resolve to strengthen the protection of intellectual property as part of efforts to encourage the development of new technologies.