Image Courtesy: Brian Turner @ FlickrFacing increasing disapproval from international bodies as well as other countries, China has finally decided to take action to show the world that it is indeed willing to protect intellectual property (IP) rights. China is all set to open a specialized court to deal entirely with IP issues in Beijing within the month. It also plans to open two other similar courts within the year in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Back in March of this year, the Supreme People’s Court of China issued guidance on the formation and election of judges to preside over matters in the specialized IP courts. These specialized courts are, at least initially, a three year experiment in handling complex IP issues such as software patents. Considering that judges assigned to specialized courts will be earning higher salaries, they have generated an interest in the judicial committee and are attracting well-established judges in the field. Under the rules promulgated, each judge will be assigned a technology expert as well that will provide assistance in technologically complex matters.

Only time will tell whether these specialized courts will give foreign IP rights the same protection afforded to their domestic counterparts. There are a number of factors that concern foreign bodies trying to enforce IP rights in China; the high level of unpredictability, local protectionism, and political influence affecting IP litigation outcomes. The fact that China is relatively new when it comes to recognizing IP rights also works against its image, having joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as late as 1980.

After a number of naysayers believed IP could never thrive in a country where there is such a high degree of unpredictability in the enforcement of IP rights, it is ironic to see that according to the WIPO, China is ranked first in terms of the amount of IP filings. It’s also worth noting the largest public offering on not only the New York stock exchange, but globally, happened to be of a Chinese company, AliBaba Group, that raised $25 billion.

If this experiment is a success, it will help strengthen China’s image and attract more companies to invest in China.


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