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Crackdown on IPR infringement bears fruit

By Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-23 07:11
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Chinese courts at different levels have intensified the crackdown on counterfeiting over the past year, with harsher punishments for intellectual property infringements, in order to further stimulate and protect innovation by the rule of law.

In 2023, courts nationwide handled more than 540,000 IP cases. Among the cases, punitive damages applied in 319, an increase of 117 percent compared with 2022, according to data released on Monday by the Supreme People's Court, China's top court.

The figures mean that "we've provided stronger protection for IP rights owners by strengthening the battle against IP infringement", Tao Kaiyuan, vice-president of the top court, said on Monday at a news conference in Beijing.

Punitive damages are extra payments awarded by courts when defendants act in a particularly harmful way. This form of punishment has been written into the country's Civil Code, a fundamental law for regulating civil activities.

In an influential case disclosed by the top court, a company and its operator in Sichuan province were ordered to pay over 100 million yuan ($13.8 million) in compensation, including four times their illicit profits, as punitive damages to Panpan, a renowned security door brand, for malicious use of similar trademarks to confuse consumers while knowing the popularity of the famous brand.

Calling it a landmark case concerning trademark infringement and unfair competition, Lin Guanghai, chief judge of the top court's No 3 Civil Adjudication Tribunal, said: "Punitive damages are a crucial measure for protecting IP rights, which in turn better stimulate innovation and support high-quality development."

While harshly punishing IPR violators, Chinese courts also attached greater importance to dealing with IP lawsuits involving high-tech fields last year, such as 5G communication, quantum technology, artificial intelligence, biomedicine, high-end equipment manufacturing and seeds, Tao said.

She said that these cases strengthened judicial protection of IP rights in key areas, core technologies and emerging businesses, and effectively served and safeguarded technological innovation and industrial upgrading.

In 2023, for instance, Beijing Intellectual Property Court concluded 140 high-tech cases, an increase of 35.2 percent compared with the previous year. IP tribunals in Hangzhou, Ningbo and Wenzhou — three cities in Zhejiang province — also resolved 2,000 lawsuits regarding technologies, the top court said.

On Monday, an activity to create short films related to IP protection was jointly launched by the top court, the China Film Association and the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

"The activity aims to encourage filmmakers, especially younger ones, to tell stories about how to protect IP rights through short films," said Deng Guanghui, an official from the association.

The deadline for the activity is July 31, he said, adding that the winners will have an opportunity to attend this year's China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival to share ideas with more film creators.

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