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New court rules to better guard IPR
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-16 00:58

Judicial departments plan to lower the legal threshold for intellectual property rights crimes.

By promulgating and enforcing a new judicial interpretation, what was once a simple intellectual property infringement may soon be a crime, said an official with the Supreme People's Court yesterday.

At the same time, police departments are launching the "Eagle Programme," a year-long crackdown on crimes related to brand names or intellectual property.

It will take time, however, to deal with IPR crimes, said Li Xiao, a Supreme People's Court justice, at a forum.

The new judicial interpretation touches on convictions and penalties, as well as the fight against online piracy and other sticky issues, she said.

Considering society has entered the "information age," IPR protection has attracted wide attention around the world, said Hu Anfu, head of the Economic Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

In China, the fight against IPR infringement crimes remains austere, he noted.

Statistics from Hu's department show between 2002 and 2003 police cracked down on more than 2,000 IPR-related crimes, involving about 1 billion yuan (US$120 million).

The annual growth rate of IPR related criminal cases surpassed 33 per cent, and the sums involved increased 29 per cent each year between 1998 and 2001.

During the first half of this year, more than 500 cases were put on record, involving 260 million yuan (US$31.3 million).

The Chinese Government is focusing on IPR protection and IPR laws and regulations, administration and law enforcement, said Zhao Bin, an official with Hu's department.

China has adopted IPR protection measures that combine both judicial and administrative protection, he said.

The new judicial interpretation will provide more legal support for the police department to fight against IPR-related crimes.

Largest victim

Meanwhile, "China is also the largest victim of cross-boarder IPR violations," said Zhao. "The intelligence and concealment of these crimes has increased the difficulty for police to crack down on these cases."

According to Zhao, cases involving infringement of brands accounted for 80 per cent of IPR-related crimes; that is the reason that the MPS decided to launch the "Eagle Programme."

Eagle Programme

The one-year campaign will focus on food, sanitary products, medicine and agricultural materials. All of them can directly affect the safety of people, said the official.

Police will also target serious cases that violate well-know brands owned by domestic and foreign companies, Zhao said.

Still, while criminal penalties are one avenue of attack, consumers' awareness should also improve, said Zhao Tianwu, director of the Intellectual Property Centre of the Ministry of Information Industry.

"For common Chinese people, IPR protection is a brand new topic since the opening-up and reform drive began more than 20 years ago," he said. "Thus it would need more time for them to get a full understanding of the issue."

Sponsored by the MPS Economic Criminal Investigation Department, more than 200 participants, including economic criminal investigators at the provincial level, enterprise representatives, people from judicial, cultural, commercial administration departments attended the two-day event, which ends today.

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