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Officials: different practices will not hinder ipr fight

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Officials: different practices will not hinder ipr fight
by sun shangwu (china daily)
updated: 2006-04-17 05:33

Just because china's judicial process handles intellectual property rights (ipr) differently from other countries does not mean that the nation is slackening its effort to crack down on ipr violations, according to top judges.

A number of countries, including the united states, claim that china's criminal procedures and penalties are inconsistent with the world trade organization's agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (trips).

"Compared to certain articles of trips, china's judicial measures are more practical, given the country's actual conditions and judicial stipulations," said ren weihua, chief justice of the no 2 criminal tribunal with the supreme people's court.

He made the remarks in an interview with china daily on the eve of president hu jintao's visit to the united states. ipr disputes have become an irritant in sino-us relations.

Article 61 of trips states that "members shall provide for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied at least in cases of wilful trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy on a commercial scale."

 

Ren said that any law should specify what "commercial scale" means, pointing out that chinese laws attach great importance to the amount of money involved in ipr cases. this can be seen as a specific explanation of "commercial scale," he added.

The supreme people's court and the supreme people's procuratorate jointly released a judicial interpretation at the end of 2004, which introduces more stringent penalties for ipr violations.

Taking copyright violations as an example, the judicial interpretation states that criminal penalties will be imposed on people involved in selling pirated products with an illegal income in excess of 30,000 yuan (us$3,700), or producing more than 1,000 pirated copies.

It is easier for judges to make decisions according to these specific requirements, according to ren.

Official statistics show that chinese courts handled a total of 3,567 cases concerning the manufacturing of fake products and illegal sales of pirated products last year, a year-on-year rise of 28 per cent.

More cases are expected to find their way to court this year as the chinese government intensifies its crackdown on ipr violations.

Ren admitted that some differences do remain on how to apply laws tackling ipr violations.

For example, some countries urge china to convict those responsible for exporting goods violating ipr, while the chinese side insists that that the breach of ipr already takes place in the manufacturing and transportation of these products.

Ren noted that the intentional manufacturing, transportation and exporting of goods violating ipr are punishable offences.

These differences are usually caused by countries' different cultural and legal backgrounds, and are sometimes due to a lack of understanding of china's current situation, according to ren.

But "these differences will not become an obstacle hindering china's fight against ipr violations," said ren.

Jiang zhipei, chief justice of the ipr tribunal of the supreme people's court, said that the number of foreign-related ipr cases increased sharply last year.

The number of civil ipr cases related to foreign companies was 268 last year, a rise of 78 per cent compared to 2004.

These ipr disputes mainly focus on such sectors as automobiles, motorcycles, pharmacy, computer software, books and audio-video products, according to jiang.

for example, pharmaceutical giant pfizer lodged a lawsuit against the state intellectual property office concerning the patent for its anti-impotence drug viagra.

The beijing municipal first intermediate people's court accepted pfizer's petition in april 2005.

Pfizer launched its lawsuit two months after its patent for viagra was revoked in china in july 2004.

The case remains in the judicial process, according to jiang.

"The handling of the case is the judicial supervision on the administrative decisions, which is required by the trips," said jiang, "it shows that chinese courts are strictly adhering to wto rules."

(China Daily 04/17/2006 page2)