In recent years, China has seen rapid growth of patent applications, as well as continual improvement on patent examination and intellectual property protection.
Patent Examination Enhanced
In 2022, China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) granted a total of 798,000 invention patents and received 74,000 PCT applications. To deal with the rapidly increasing patent applications, CNIPA has established seven Patent Examination Cooperation Centers, respectively in:
- Chengdu and;
The seven Patent Examination Cooperation Centers have taken over the responsibilities of examination of patent applications, while the CNIPA headquarter focuses on patent reexamination and invalidation cases.
The total number of patent examiners in the seven Patent Examination Cooperation Centers and the CNIPA headquarter reached approximately 14,000 in 2019, providing the resources to ensure timely and quality examination.
As a result of the enhanced examination forces, the average time for the examination of invention patent applications has been reduced to 16.5 months . The time for re-examination cases has been reduced to one to two years on average.
In addition, statistics shows higher consistency between examination results by CNIPA and those by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO) and Japan Patent Office (JPO) , reaching approximately 90%.
Legal System Fortified
China has also been fortifying its legal system to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights.
Since 2014, China has established four intellectual property courts, all specialised in intellectual property administrative and civil disputes. The four courts are:
- Beijing IP Court;
- Shanghai IP Court;
- Guangzhou IP Court and;
- Hainan Free Trade Port IP Court.
On January 1, 2019, the Supreme Court of China established an Intellectual Property Tribunal, focused on second-instance IP cases.A first-instance case involving intellectual property rights heard in an intellectual property court (or any other designated court) could take as little as six months to one year (counted from the date of registration) , .
The courts are generally patentee-friendly not only to China domestic plaintiffs but also to foreign plaintiffs. According to a report from UK , those foreign plaintiffs who sue Chinese companies won some 81% of their patent cases. A reputation for fairness is even making China a preferred arbitrator for patent disputes between non-Chinese companies.
For the Beijing IP Court, as high as 82% of the decisions in patent infringement cases are favorable to patentees, consistent across Chinese and foreign plaintiffs. A US media, IAM, compared the Beijing IP Court with the Eastern District of Texas of the US, regarding it “extremely plaintiff friendly”, and even mentions it as “plaintiff paradise”.
In addition to legal measures, patentees can also use a variety of other remedies against infringements, including cease and desist letters, arbitration and mediation, pre-litigation injunctions, and administrative enforcements. In 2022, 72.7% of Chinese enterprises as patentees took at least one of the aforementioned measures to protect their patent rights against patent infringements, with that number remaining over 70% during the past four years  .
With the fortified legal system as well as enhanced administrative enforcements, China has seen a declining number of patent infringements since 2012, as per the below graph from the China Patent Investigation Report of 2022 published by CNIPA. According to the Report, the percentage of patent infringements suffered by patentees in China was reduced to 7.7% in 2022.
To summarise, China has been enhancing its patent examination forces and fortifying its legal system and administrative enforcement against IP infringements, which results in effective curbing and significant decline in patent infringements. All measures lead to a more appealing environment for the patentees and applicants to seek protection of their innovation and patents in China.
4. 最高人民法院主页知识产权法庭主页, https://enipc.court.gov.cn/zh-cn/news/view-48.html
8. Raconteur, a UK media https://www.raconteur.net/legal/intellectual-property/how-china-became-leader-intellectual-property/