2012 was a year of rapid change for IP owners in China. Draft versions of all three major IP laws were presented and debated, and the National People’s Congress passed a major revision to the Civil Procedure Law, loosening up restrictions on expert witness testimony in patent cases. In contrast, 2013 has been a quieter time for IP. As a number of sources told Managing IP, China’s focus has mostly been on its once-in-a-decade leadership transition and the major IP-related projects are taking a back seat for a few months.
The slow period appears to be coming to an end. The most recent draft revision to the Trademark Act has been completed and is circulating, though not made available to the general public. The National People’s Congress’s press release described a bill designed to address a number of longstanding issues, from damages to bad faith registrations. Rights holders are generally positive about many of the changes, though there is some concern that the full bill hasn’t been made available.
The momentum appears to be picking up. One China-based source who secured a copy of the newest draft of the Trademark Law said that the government is aiming to finalise the bill next month. If true, this would indicate that it may be difficult to secure many more major changes, but as some have noted, the fact that the bill is not public means that there may be entire sections subject to last-minute horse trading outside of public scrutiny.
Changes may be afoot in other areas as well. Patent holders around the world have been awaiting word on the successor to Tian Lipu, the SIPO’s long-serving commissioner. Despite rumours last year that he may stay on, some now say that He Hua, the deputy director of SIPO (pictured), will take the helm when Tian reaches the mandatory retirement age of 60 in October. And of course, the patent and copyright law revisions are still pending and have initiated vigorous discussions despite the relative lack of recent activity.
Of course, it is worth noting that what counts as a somewhat slow period of change for China would be considered a burst of frenzied activity by other countries’ standards. But after all the discussions, rights holders (and journalists) are likely looking forward to some movement on these important issues.