A patent infringement dispute between two Chinese companies has seen a total amount of RMB 1 billion (about US$ 150 million) damages requested, a record for a Chinese patent infringement case.
In December 2018, Jiangsu General Protecht Technology ("General Protecht" or "GP"), a leader in circuit breakers and many other electrical devices, filed patent infringement lawsuits with the Nanjing Intermediate People's Court, located in eastern China's Jiangsu province, against the Bull Group ("Bull") based on one invention patent and one utility model patent. GP alleges that nearly 200 Bull products infringe the two patents, which are related to safety features for electrical sockets and strips.
GP divided the products into 5 groups and alleges that products in each group infringe both patents. As a result, GP filed a total of 10 cases with each case involving one patent and one product group. The requested damages amount in each case is RMB 99.9 million (about US$ 15 million). According to current rules, court fees are based on the amount of damages requested. In this case, the total court fee for the 10 cases is more than RMB 5 million (about US$ 750,000), which has been paid by GP.
One speculation about the way GP divides the cases is that it wanted the first instance cases to be handled by the Nanjing Intermediate Court, because, according to court rules, if the requested damages amount is RMB 100 million or larger, the first instance court would be the Jiangsu High Court.
The lawsuits hit Bull, a leader in the electrical sockets and strips market in China, at a sensitive time, as it filed papers with the China Securities Regulatory Commission ("CSRC") in September 2018 for its initial public offering and is waiting for the CSRC's review and approval.
As a response, Bull has filed invalidation requests against the two patents with the Patent Reexamination Board of the CNIPA. The Nanjing court has suspended proceedings in the 5 cases involving the utility model patent, pending the result in the invalidation case. However, the 5 cases involving the invention patent are proceeding at a relatively fast pace. The court has held hearings for the cases on March 4-8 and then on March 18 and March 20, 2019. Due to the number of products involved, the court will conduct further hearings for the 5 cases later.
Sinda Law attorneys Yi Lu and Yanmeng Zhao are representing the Bull Group in the five invention patent cases and argued for the defendant at the Nanjing court hearings. The above summary is based on publicly available information regarding the cases.
Sinda Law Offices is a general practice law firm that focuses on intellectual property legal matters. Associated with China Sinda Intellectual Property, the law firm has strong capabilities and experienced attorneys and has successfully represent clients in many litigation and related legal matters. For example, in 2017, the firm represented the plaintiff before the Beijing IP Court in the first-ever successful pre-suit evidence preservation request that was granted and carried out in two different jurisdictions simultaneously in a case that involved patents, software copyright registration and trade secret.
These cases are yet another indication of the very active and fast changing Chinese patent system. We believe that, with the newly established IP Court of the Supreme People's Court (see our Newsletter earlier this year), we will see continued fast pace developments in the system.
We will follow these developments closely and provide you with periodic updates.
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