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More foreign companies involved in IPR cases

By Zhang Yan and Zhu Zhe | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-15 07:10

Global competition, protectionism contribute to increase in lawsuits

The top court has seen an increase in intellectual property lawsuits involving overseas companies in the first five months of the year amid economic globalization and rising domestic awareness.

From January to May, judges nationwide announced verdicts in 24,544 intellectual property rights cases, up by 36.6 percent year-on-year, according to the Supreme People's Court.

About 2 percent of those cases, or 504 lawsuits, involved overseas litigants. Last year, 1.7 percent of 83,850 such lawsuits nationwide were foreign-related, according to the top court.

"With fiercer global competition, as well as a tendency for trade protectionism in certain countries, we have seen a remarkable increase in cross-border IPR conflicts," said Kong Xiangjun, president of the top court's intellectual property tribunal.

Most of the IPR lawsuits that involve overseas companies are related to infringement of trademarks, patents or copyrights, Kong said.

The foreign parties involved are mainly from the United States, major European countries such as Britain, France and Germany, and Japan, he said.

For example, multinational giants such as Microsoft, Apple, General Electric and Abbott Laboratories from the US, Michelin from France, BMW from Germany and Honda from Japan have all appeared as litigants in IPR lawsuits in China in recent years, according to the top court.

Rising awareness of IPR protection of domestic companies, particularly some IT companies, and intensified efforts of judicial departments to combat copyright infringement, have also contributed to the high incidence of such law cases, Kong said.

Lang Guimei, a senior judge with the top court's intellectual property tribunal, said courts are also handling more foreign-related IPR cases involving international trade conflicts.

"The parties involved usually fight each other through cross-border IPR lawsuits to compete for trade benefits," she said, without elaborating.

Li Li, a member of the China Lawyer Society who specializes in cross-border IPR cases, said that the tendency of trade protectionism in some countries amid a sluggish global economy might contribute to the rise.

She said IPR could be used as a tool to implement trade protectionism and a weapon of transnational enterprises to deter Chinese enterprises from going global.

Faced with rising IPR cases involving overseas companies, Kong said, Chinese judges are under pressure because of the complexity of such cases and the huge impact the ruling might bring to the litigants.

"With rapidly developing technology, it's difficult to clarify some of the technical facts, particularly in high-tech sectors such as biology, chemistry, pharmaceutical, electronics and telecom," he said.

And the verdicts might have huge a impact on the litigants or be vital for a company's survival, he said.

To better handle rising IPR cases, Kong called for more up-to-date legislation on IPR protection and setting up more IPR courts specializing in such cases across the country.

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