Yang Fan, director of Chongqing Center for Technology Evaluation and Exchange, sat next to the presiding judge in the intellectual property tribunal of the city's Liangjiang New Area on July 10, to hear a software copyright lawsuit.
She was the first expert outside the court system to be invited as a juror in the history of all IP case hearings in the city.
The court heard that when the defendant in the case started working for a local company in 2007, he was responsible for the development of a type of housing repair funds management software. He left in 2009 and started his own company, which developed software for the same use.
Last year, his former employer sued him and his company, claiming that he had infringed on the copyright of its software.
"The judges are law specialists, but not specialists of all fields," said Xiao Yan, chief of the tribunal. "To judge the relationship of the involved two types of software, we have to compare their source code, which is a professional task that requires much computer expertise."
Therefore, they decided to invite an expert to the court to "balance the interests of both sides".
During the evidence presentation, the plaintiff submitted an examination report by the local judicial identification authority. When the examiner appeared in court as a witness, Yang asked questions about the similar parts in the two software's source codes and if they involved crucial functions and how they decided who completed the software first.
She then exchanged her views with the presiding judge.
"The judges are responsible for the application of law, and the experts help ascertain facts," said Xiao. "They will complement the judge in various professional areas."
The expert jury mechanism is one of the attempts by the intellectual property tribunal of Liangjiang New Area to deal with complicated cases, as many of its cases involve technical problems such as constitution features and analysis of machines.
Yang is one of eight people in the expert jury, who cover areas including computers, chemicals and machinery.
Established in February 2014, the tribunal heard more than 500 cases in the first six months of this year.
"Different from doing research and development in the lab, my job on the judgment seat was mostly listening and analyzing," Yang told local news website cqnews.net. "It was also a learning process."
She said the design of every type of software is "based on something previous".
"When you make innovation based on other people's accomplishment, there is a matter of degree," she said. "You might violate others' rights if you do it overly."
She suggested programmers pay attention to copyright issues when designing software architecture and interfaces, to protect the rights to their own works from being violated and avoid violating rights to others' works.
(China Daily 07/15/2015 page17)