IPR violators face tougher sentences

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-17 07:32

Copyright and patent law violators face longer jail terms and higher fines, making it financially impossible for them to commit such crimes again, as China yesterday vowed to enforce tougher piracy laws.

In a document on intellectual property rights (IPR) cases, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) said IPR violators should get heavier punishment.

"The document, first of its kind issued by the country's highest court, will serve as a guideline for IPR cases," Chief Justice of SPC's IPR Tribunal Jiang Zhipei told China Daily.

"It reflects the country's determination to crack down on IPR offences and its encouragement to innovation," he said.

Serious IPR violators could be sentenced to three to seven years in prison along with severe financial punishment.

A judicial interpretation issued by the SPC about two years ago detailed how to deal with "serious cases" but failed to say under which circumstances heavy sentences more than five years should be handed down. Nor did the interpretation mention how much fine a person should pay for a particular type of violation.

The legal blank left room for different verdicts in similar cases. But with the new document coming into force, judges will hand down relatively heavier sentences within the scope of the law. For instance, a violator could be jailed for six or seven years if the law says the nature of the crime demands three to seven years' sentence.

"We should not only sentence such offenders in a determined manner, but also make it economically impossible for them to commit the crime again," SPC Vice-President Cao Jianming said at a news conference.

Foreign officials and business have been complaining that it's difficult to prosecute IPR violators in China, and cases that have been heard have almost always resulted in modest fines, which don't actually act as a deterrent.

A Beijing couple found guilty of selling 210,000 yuan ($27,000) worth of fake branded clothes were sentenced to four years in jail and fined 70,000 yuan ($9,000) last September.

Another couple in Qingdao in East China's Shandong Province were fined 20,000 yuan ($2,600) for selling 2,900 pirated DVDs and possessing 19,000 more.

IPR protection in China is covered by civil, administrative and criminal regulations, with civil judicial protection being the base of the entire system.

SPC figures show that in 2005, people's courts across the country handled 16,583 civil and 3,567 criminal IPR cases, up 21 percent and 28 percent, respectively, over the previous year.

On Monday, Beijing also announced its IPR protection plan for the next four years. It says the city will train more managerial-level IPR protection professionals and inject more funds into IPR protection, and strongly encourage innovation.

(China Daily 01/17/2007 page3)

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