China reports a stable trend in intellectual property development in the first half of this year. [Photo/Sipa] President stresses that measures are on a par with safeguarding innovation The high level of attention the central leadership attaches to the protection of intellectual property rights shows that they have a significant role in both domestic development as well as the current international situation, said a leading expert in the field. An article by President Xi Jinping on comprehensively strengthening the protection of IPR and stimulating the vitality of innovation to foster a new development paradigm was published on Monday in this year's third issue of Qiushi Journal, a flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. Innovation is the primary driving force behind development, and protecting IPR is equal to protecting innovation, Xi stressed in the article, the content of which was delivered by him at a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in November. Ma Yide, an intellectual property professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, said, "Domestically, innovation has become the first productive force due to the requirement of high-quality economic development and the reform of industrial technology. As President Xi said, protecting IPR means protecting innovation. Therefore, making more efforts in IPR protection is the priority in our development." "Strengthening IPR protection, especially in terms of legal protection, also shows to the world that we reject IPR infringements and protect the rights of innovators and intellectual property right holders," Ma added. In the article, Xi called for a stronger and more efficient legal system of IPR protection, as IPR protection matters to the modernization of China's governance system and capacity, high-quality development, people's happiness, opening-up and national security. Xi also stressed legislation on geographical indications and business secrets, calling for research and a draft of IP-related lawsuit specifications, noting that criminal and administrative punishments for IPR violators should be intensified. Meanwhile, IPR protection in new businesses and technologies, including big data, artificial intelligence and genetics, must also be increased, the article said, calling for innovation in IP-related case hearings and the optimized handling of cases. To better protect IPR, a national-level Intellectual Property Court was opened in January 2019 as a division of the Supreme People's Court. It deals with civil and administrative appeal cases on patents and advanced technologies. By the end of 2020, it had dealt with more than 4,000 such cases. "Some of the cases have become benchmarks in safeguarding IPR and promoting high-tech innovation," said Zhu Li, deputy chief judge of the IP Court. These cases covered industries including medicine, telecommunications, animal genetics, network cabling, large machinery, smart input methods and computer software, according to Zhu. "The court has been playing a bigger role in strengthening legal protection of IP rights by improving the efficiency and quality of challengeable IP-related technical cases," he added. Zhu said many technical IP-related cases had been resolved more quickly over the past two years because the new division streamlined the appeal process by allowing litigants to bypass provincial courts and appeal to it directly. This means that litigants, who are unhappy with rulings made by intermediate courts at city or prefecture level, or by other specialized courts, can appeal directly to the top court instead of first appealing to a high court at the municipal or provincial level. "Such a streamlined process not only improves the efficiency of case hearings, but has also unified the trial criteria, as it prevents inconsistencies in handling complicated technical disputes nationwide," Zhu added. Besides the national-level IP court, the country has four intermediate-level courts specializing in IP in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong and Hainan provinces. Furthermore, laws on patents, copyrights and trademarks have also been amended in recent years, with harsher punishments for IP violators and higher compensation for IP owners. All of these measures are to implement the requirements from the central leadership to improve the legal protection system for IPR, Ma said. Action plan China unveiled an action plan on Sunday to guide the building of a high-standard market system in the next five years, in which IPR protection has also been given priority and is regarded as a key way to improve the socialist market economy and embrace a "dual-circulation" development paradigm. The plan stipulates that several IP-related guidelines should be promoted or drafted, such as those on handling civil disputes on business secrets and tackling patent cases on drug listing approval. The plan says that people who infringe others' IPR maliciously or for a long time will face harsher punishment. Procedures to apply for trademarks or patents as well as the time to review these applications must be optimized and shortened, it said. Additionally, rules on patent protection on medicines and IPR protection in e-commerce industries will also be drawn up.