China is famous for its enthusiastic production of statistics and IP is no exception. Chinese civil court IP cases are often touted as evidence of the growing sophistication of the Chinese IP legal system. Below are some published numbers for civil IP cases:
Year - No. of IP cases
2006 - 16,708
2007 - 20,265
2008 - 28,217
2009 - 36,001
The latest release of data states that civil IPR cases jumped nearly 40% last year; specifically in the first 11 months of 2010, the courts heard 32,748 first instance IP disputes. Go back to the early 2000s and the number was just a few thousand. At that level it is the largest civil IP docket in the world. There are probably more patent trials than in Germany or the US now.
In contrast IP Komodo’s home in Indonesia hears around 100 civil IP cases a year at first instance. The renowned specialist CIPIT court in Thailand published that its 2009 docket was 321 civil IP cases. Why is China for far ahead? Some say it’s the enthusiastic use of the courts by local PRC companies.
But IP Komodo has spotted something which calls into question how to interpret these numbers. In a recent Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court copyright case Beijing News alleged that Zhejiang Online had copied over 7700 articles without authorization on its website. The court asked the plaintiff Beijing News to separate the matter into individual 'cases' based on the number of articles copied. The plaintiff would have to file 7700 separate 'cases' for the dispute! It is quite common for some PRC courts to require separation of claims into separate 'cases' in court because it involves different rights, whereas in other countries multiple claims and infringing acts can be combined in the same action. And Judges have an incentive to increase the number of 'cases' as it is one of the elements in their performance appraisal. Esteemed PRC former Judge Zhang Zhipei was critical of the Hangzhou court’s decision in the news reports. While no doubt China has become one of most IP litigious countries, the calculation of numbers of 'cases' may not necessarily match the actual number of disputes.
Guest post by IP Komodo Dragon