There are still plenty of fakes of course, but the debate
has moved on. Foreign companies have become better at
understanding the rules and procedures for protecting their
rights in China and many are focusing their attention on
responding to the rise of the country’s home-grown
- but expansionary – businesses.
Another change has
been improvements in China’s judicial system. At
last week’s Women's Leadership Forum in London,
Rouse’s Diana Sternfeld (right) said that her
firm has litigated more than 1,000 IP cases in the country.
What has changed over time, she explained, is that
China’s courts are now trying much harder to
understand cases. She recounted how one judge had accompanied a
raid to see how the defendants operated their counterfeiting
business so as to understand the case better.
But as confidence in the courts is growing, so is demand for
their services. IP disputes involving a foreign party make up a
very small proportion of cases brought before Chinese judges:
thousands more involve Chinese rivals.
That confidence has a downside: with courts so busy, many
judges will look for opportunities to reduce their backlog and
reject cases on procedural irregularities that seem trivial
– and infuriating – to foreign IP owners.
GE’s Catriona Hammer, for example, recalled one
notary refusing to notarize a document prepared by a colleague
in Sweden because it had been signed using a ballpoint pen
rather than a fountain pen.
While it may not come as much comfort to IP litigants
perplexed by China’s procedural red tape, the
practical constraints they face may, in part, reflect a
changing judicial system in which parties have increasing
For more on litigation in China, see Peter Leung's
interview with Judge Chen Jinchuan, vice president of the
new Beijing IP Court, in our latest issue (subscription or free