On September 3, 2018, the State Intellectual Property Office of China announced on its website1 that the English name of the Chinese governmental body has changed from the "State Intellectual Property Office" ("SIPO") to the "China National Intellectual Property Administration” ("CNIPA"). Accordingly, the agency's English abbreviation of the bureau has changed from “SIPO” to “CNIPA” as well. The website domain has also been changed to http://www.cnipa.gov.cn/.
At the beginning of 2018, the Chinese government reorganized SIPO to centralize the administration of patents, trademarks, geographical indications of origin, and layout design of integrated circuits. As a result, efficiency of the administration of intellectual property affairs has greatly improved. Before the reorganization, patent matters were handled by SIPO; trademark matters were handled by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce; copyright matters were handled by the National Copyright Administration; and matters relating to geographical indication of origin, i.e., a property right similar to trademarks that was handled by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China ("AQSIQ"). For example, the AQSIQ's administration was previously separate from the trademark administration.
Before the reorganization, China's administration of intellectual property rights was relatively decentralized, which brought difficulties managing and enforcing intellectual property rights. After the reorganization, CNIPA now provides a central authority for protecting intellectual property rights and facilitating establishment of the intellectual property protection system. Furthermore, CNIPA is responsible for the registration and administrative adjudication of trademarks, patents, and geographical indications of origin. For example, CNIPA will establish guidance for trademark and patent enforcement, while the actual enforcement will be borne by the market supervision and comprehensive law enforcement team. Although the State Intellectual Property Office of China has not changed its Chinese name, the agency's role has been greatly expanded.
Moreover, in the "Regulations on the Function Allocation, Internal Organizations and Staffing of the CNIPA"2 promulgated on September 11, 2018, CNIPA’s responsibility to promote operation of intellectual property within China has been added. This added responsibility includes the following:
- formulating policies for operating intellectual property rights and regulating transactions thereof;
- promoting transfer and transformation of intellectual property rights;
- regulating the intangible asset assessment for intellectual property;
- implementing compulsory licensing of patents; and
- formulating policies and measures for development and supervision of intellectual property intermediary services.
At present, CNIPA receives the highest number of patent applications in the world. However, effective operation and administration of patent rights in China remains a difficult problem for patent owners. From the changing function of CNIPA, we can see that CNIPA will further support related work on intellectual property licensing, transfer, and evaluation in the future.
From a global perspective, among the 196 countries and regions that currently implement the intellectual property system, 74 countries have implemented a centralized and unified "three-in-one" administration model of patents, trademarks and copyrights. On the other hand, 113 countries have implemented a relatively concentrated "two-in-one" administration mode for patents and trademarks (such as the United States, Japan, and France, etc.). Here, the reorganization of CNIPA has merged the patent and trademark administrations. Thus, China has taken a substantial step forward in aligning the nation's intellectual property administration with the current international trends.
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