China to open IP mediation centre


China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) is to open a mediation centre to deal with intellectual property and online piracy disputes, it was revealed at a conference last week.

At a meeting of the Internet Society of China and the Mediation Center of Internet Legal Professionals in Beijing, MIIT announced that the centre will be launched later this year and should provide a more cost-effective and efficient alternative to litigation.

Zhang Xuesong, vice president of Beijing’s High Court, said at the conference that there had been a 17 percent increase in the number of IP cases filed at the court from 2011 to 2012, and that 16 percent of cases were related to online piracy.

With more than 500 million users, China is the world’s largest Internet market and it also has the world’s highest piracy rates - the US government estimates  that 99 percent of all music downloads are illegal in China and in 2012, both US Customs and Border Protection and the European Commission named China as the top source of counterfeit goods.

The centre is the latest in a series of efforts to tackle online infringement. In December last year, the National Copyright Administration (NAC) announced plans for a copyright crackdown to be implemented in 2013 and in July, it launched a four-month anti-infringement campaign through enhanced Internet supervision and greater co-operation between NAC, MIIT, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Internet Information Office.

The Chinese government has also published proposed revisions to its trademark law, which include making good faith an essential requirement, and is accepting comments until 31 January.

Commenting on the announcement, Jason Rawkins, a partner at Taylor Wessing LLP in London, said: “It’s definitely good news that China is making efforts to improve IP protection, but whether the mediation centre will be useful in practice remains to be seen. Mediation only has a decent chance of working if there is an effective legal and court system behind it – otherwise, there isn’t enough of an incentive for a defendant to agree to an out of court settlement.”

Rawkins added that the proposed revisions to trademark law are also encouraging. “Once introduced, this will hopefully deal with a real bugbear for brand owners - under the existing system, trademark squatters in China have been able to register marks belonging to brand owners, and it’s been very difficult to do anything about it,” he said.

This article was first published on 23 January 2013 in World IP Review

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