Court weighs in on IPR violations
By Zhu Zhe
Updated: 2007-01-19 07:15

China's top court effectively strengthened the intellectual property rights of famous brands and products yesterday when it issued a judicial interpretation rendering the Anti-Unfair Competition Law applicable to a wider array of cases.

The interpretation, published on the website of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), detailed the clauses covering counterfeiting, false or exaggerated advertising, and infringements of commercial secrets. It was the first interpretation of the Anti-Unfair Competition Law since it was enacted in 1993.

The Anti-Unfair Competition Law does not specifically grant intellectual property rights (IPR), but in practise it is widely applied in IPR cases.

The law bans unfair business practices, including the use of names, packaging or decorations that are identical or similar to famous products, as well as any methods used to obtain other companies' business secrets, whether through theft or coercion.

Violators risk having to pay compensation and are subject to criminal charges.

However, the SPC said on its website that the law can be difficult to apply because it lacks details. To eliminate such ambiguity, the court's interpretation makes some definitions clear.

For instance, a "renowned brand" is defined as a brand that enjoys a certain level of reputation in the Chinese market and is familiar to a certain segment of the public. And "decoration" could refer to the style of service utensils and uniforms worn by service staff.

The SPC said that the details included in the interpretation, which will take effect next month, were based on the court proceedings of numerous unfair competition cases heard over the last decade. The court said that its goal was to make the law more applicable.

"It'll serve as a guideline for Chinese courts to follow in such cases," the top court said.

The interpretation reflects the ongoing effort to strengthen IPR protection in China.

The SPC announced on Tuesday that copyright and patent law violators would face longer jail terms and higher fines, making it financially impossible for offenders to repeatedly commit such crimes.

(China Daily 01/19/2007 page3)