Report on the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights in China in 2003 (Abstract)

April 13, 2004
State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO)
State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC)
National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC)

The year of 2003 was an important year for the Chinese government to further strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) and make new achievements.

In 2003, the Chinese intellectual property system was further improved, with the total number of applications of three kinds of patents breaking 300,000, and the number of applications for trademark registration breaking 450,000. Significant achievement was gained in the area of copyright protection. The fight against intellectual property infringement was further intensified. Important advancement was made for the protection of new varieties of plants. Moreover, the international exchange and cooperation in the area of IPR was also further strengthened.

I. Further Improvement for Intellectual Property System

To adapt to the new situation after China's entry into WTO, the Chinese government further improved the legal framework of intellectual property by checking and clearing large-scale regulations related to intellectual property.  In 2003, various regulations and rules have been enacted, i.e. the Regulation on Customs Protection of Intellectual Property Rights of the People's Republic of China, the Implementation Rule of Copyright Administrative Punishment, the Rule on Compulsory Licensing of Patents and the Rule on Patent Agent Administration.  Besides that, a number of  regulations and rules, which were not in line with the agreements of WTO, were revised or annulled. WTO passed the review of Chinese Intellectual Property laws and its transitional review.

II. Make New Achievements in Patent Work

In 2003, the SIPO received a total of 308,487 patent applications, an increase of 22.1% over the 252,631 of the previous year. A total of 1,171, international applications were received, 220 more than that of the previous year.  A total of 182,226 patents were granted in 2003, with an increase of 37.6% over 132,399 of the same period of previous year. Among that, 149,588 were granted to domestic applications, with an increase of 33.4% over 112,103 of the same period of previous year, while 32,638 were granted to foreign applications, with an increase of 60.8% over 20,296 of the same period of previous year.

There were following three features regarding the patent application in 2003: First, each of the three categories of patents accounted for about one third of the total in quantity. The amount of invention patent applications had caught up with that of utility model for the first time since 16 years ago. In 2003, the invention patents increased by 31.3% over the previous year, far beyond the other two categories.  Second, the domestic invention patents exceeded the foreign ones for the first time in the past 8 years. Since China became the member of PCT in 1994, the invention patent applications from abroad went up sharply, and the domestic invention patent applications were left behind. This situation was changed in 2003, the domestic invention applications added up to 57,000, while the foreign ones were 49,000.  Third, the service inventions exceeded the non-service inventions since the implementation of the Chinese Patent Law, as a result of the significant increase of the domestic service patent applications (an increase of 26.1% over the previous year). The domestic service invention patent applications went up to 34,371 (an increase of 53.2% over the previous year), with a faster increasing speed than those of utility models and industrial designs (23.3% and 8.8% respectively).  Thus the domestic service patent applications accounted for more than 40% of the total domestic patent applications.

As of December 31, 2003, 1,931,118 patent applications have been received by SIPO, of which, 1,595,415 were domestic and 335,703 were foreign, accounting for 82.6% and 17.4% of the total respectively.  Meanwhile, 1,065,261 patents have been granted, of which, 941,940 were domestic and 123,321 were foreign, accounting for 88.4%and 11.6% of the total respectively.

In 2003, SIPO received 193 applications for the registration of layout designs of integrated circuits.  In the same year, 204 applications were published, registered and issued with certificates. By 31 December 2003, a total of 438 applications for the registration of layout designs of integrated circuits were received, 366 of which were published, registered and issued with certificates.

In respect of patent administrative enforcement, the local intellectual property offices handled the patent disputes efficiently and fought against counterfeiting patents and passing-off patents by taking advantage of simple enforcement procedure, large number of professionals and fast effect of administrative enforcement. In 2003, they handled 1,517patent dispute cases, of which 1,237 were resolved.  A total of 1,873 cases were settled as passing-off patents and 164 cases were settled as counterfeiting patents.

III. Strengthen Protection for Trademarks

In 2003, the Trademark Office (TMO) received the most trademark applications ever since, a total of 452,095, covering both goods and service, an increase of more than 80,000 or 21.6% over that of 2002. Of this total number, 405,620 were domestic applications, an increase of more than 26.3% over the previous year, accounting for 89.7% of the total, 33,912 were from abroad, accounting for 7.5% of the total, 12,563 were related to the extension of the territorial extension of international trademark registrations in accordance with the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, accounting for 2.8% of the total.

In 2003, the Trademark Office totally reviewed 245,737 trademarks and approved 242,511 trademarks for registration. 34,378 were related to the changes of registered trademarks, 41,366 related to assignment, 23,184 related to renewal, 32,653 related to revocation and cancellation, 12,886 related to the records of the trademark licensing.
In 2003, the administrations for industry and commerce (AICs) at all levels across the nation continued intensifying enforcement in trademark cases, and severely cracked down upon trademark counterfeiting and infringement. The legitimate rights of trademark registrants and the interests of consumers were effectively protected. According to statistics, 37,489 trademark law-breaking cases of various kinds were investigated and handled across the country in 2003 (of which 11,001 were ordinary law-breaking cases and 26,488 related to trademark-infringement and counterfeiting). A total of 84,755,000 pieces/sets of illegal marks were seized and removed, 15,597 molds, printing plates and other tools directly used in the trademark infringement were confiscated. 5,754.92 tons of infringed products were destroyed. The fine imposed amounted to 242,000,000 RMB, 45 cases were transferred to judicial organs for criminal liabilities.

Since the Regulations on Protection of the Olympic Symbols were promulgated and implemented, protection of Olympic symbols has been enforced by AICs at all levels, initiating severe attacking at behaviors infringing the exclusive right of using Olympic symbols.

IV. Remarkable Achievements in Administrative Enforcement of Copyright 

In 2003, copyright administrations at various levels made remarkable achievements in encouraging innovation, promoting industrial development, regulating market order, and further developing the opening-up policy. 

Protection of copyright has also been enhanced by copyright administration at all levels.  In 2003, the National Copyright Administration of China arranged 3 special actions for fighting against pirate and infringement across the country, dispatching a total of 150,000 enforcement personnel to check more than 20,000 markets, 67,000 booths, 500 enterprises, and 8,000 schools. As a result, 12,900,000 pieces/sets of pirated products were seized, 2,542 infringing units received fines amounting to   2,810,000 RMB, and 1,981 illegal businesses were shut down.

In 2003, the local copyright administrations across the country handled 23,013 cases, nearly 2.6 times of 2002, and resolved 22,429, with a resolving rate of 97.6%. Of all the cases, 21,032 cases received fines, 1,173 were fmediated and 224 were transferred to the judicial organs. The top 5 regions, where the most cases were handled, resolved and fined, were Guangdong, Guangxi, Henan, Jiangsu, and Fujian.

V. Continuously Strengthened Customs Protection for Intellectual Property Rights

In 2003, the customs offices across China continued strengthening the border protection for IPRs. They cooperated with judicial organs, the authorities in charge of IP work and other IP-related agencies closely, communicated with right holder effectively, and abated illegal acts of IP infringement in the course of import and export successfully. Therefore, the market environment was improved, the import and export order was maintained, and the legitimate interests of right holders were safeguarded.

In 2003, a total of 756 IP infringement cases at a value of 67,970,000 RMB were investigated and solved by the customs across China, among which, 9 cases worth 270,000 RMB were related to imported goods and 747 cases worth 67,700,000 RMB were related to exported goods. Of all handled cases, there were 741 cases worth 66,930,000 RMB related to trademark, 14 cases worth 1.04 million RMB related to patent right, and 1 case related to copyright.

VI. Further Regulate the Market of Audio-visual Products

In 2003, the cultural administrations at all levels across China kept on rectifying and regulating audio-video market, fight against massive illegal actions heavily, such as smuggle, piracy, etc. According to the statistics, in the whole year, the cultural administrations captured 120,000,000 boxes (pieces) of illegal audio-video products, revoked 3,984 operative permits. In 2003, 1,583 cases were handed over to the public security authorities or judicial organs, among which 134 were charged with criminal liabilities.

VII. The Public Security Authorities Enhance Investigation and Prosecution

In 2003, the public security authorities across the country investigated over 34,700 cases related to infringement, piracy and pornography, 41,000 suspects were captured, more than 114,000,000 pieces of pirated or obscene disc, more than 37,200,000 other illegal publications, and 34 assembly lines for illegal disc manufacture were seized.

VIII. Strengthen Protection for New Varieties of Plants

In 2003, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the State Forestry Administration (SFA) strengthened protection for new varieties of plants in some crucial areas, such as, publicity, training, enforcement and investigation, promoting the implementation of various rights and etc, and raised the awareness of agricultural technicians to protect the new varieties of plants. Moreover, an important achievement was scored in implementing the Regulations on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of the People's Republic of China.

In 2003,the MOA received a total of 567 applications for protection of the new varieties, an increase of more than 96% over 2002, and approved 261 new varieties. Form 1999 to 2003, the MOA received a total of 1,304 applications, and approved 428 new varieties. In 2003, the SFA received 48 applications for protection of the new varieties, an increase of 31 applications over that of 2002, and approved 7 new varieties. In 2003, the SFA received 35 foreign applications through agents, accounting for 76.1% of the total 46 foreign applications in the past 5years.

In 2003, MOA published the 5th list of new plant varieties, which included 11 plants.  By then, 41 agricultural varieties and species had been covered by the protection.  The SFA published the 3rd list on protection of new varieties plants, covering 45 varieties and species.

IX. Further Expansion on International Exchange and Cooperation

At the Thirty-Ninth Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO, Mr. WANG Jingchuan, Commissioner of SIPO was elected as the Vice Chairman of the Assembly, Mr. LI Dongsheng, Vice Minister of SAIC, was elected as the Vice Chairman of Madrid Union, and Mr. SHEN Rengan, Vice Minister of NCAC, was elected as Vice Chairman of Berne Union.

In October 2003, under the framework of the EU-China IP Cooperation Program, SIPO and EPO co-organized in Beijing a Symposium on Partnership in the Protection of Intellectual Property between China and Europe - Past, Present and Future.  From 3 to 5 November, the China delegation attended the 10th session of Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights of WIPO, Mr. Shen Rengan, Vice Minister of NCAC, was selected as the Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.  On 14 November, the Third Trilateral Policy Dialogue Meeting among the Commissioners of SIPO, JPO and KIPO was held in Beijing. On the same day, Mr. An Qinghu, Director General of the Trademark Office, SAIC met Mr. Yasuo IMAI, Commissioner of JPO.  From 20 to 28 November, the NCAC and the WIPO jointly held the Symposium on the "Right of Disseminating to Public" mentioned in WCT and WPPT of WIPO.  From 9 to 17 December, Commissioner Wang Jingchuan led a delegation of SIPO to visit Mexico and Brazil.