Recently China set up an Intellectual Property Tribunal within the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) to serve as a national IP appellate court. The appeals court opened for business at January 1st, 2019, two months after plans to launch it were revealed. It will oversee disputes on patents, plant varieties and computer software, among other areas, but not trademark or trade secrets. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is reviewing a draft proposal that paves the way for the Supreme People’s Court to hear appeals also in Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as other intermediate-level courts. Before, these cases were heard at the higher people’s court level in the jurisdiction in which the first instance case took place.
The new body within the SPC hears appeals from both civil and administrative matters in the following areas:
- Civil first instance decisions made by specialist IP courts and intermediate courts in invention and utility model patent infringement, new plant species, integrated circuit design, trade secret, software and anti-trust cases. Currently, these are appealed to higher people’s courts at the provincial level.
- Decisions of the Beijing IP court in administrative matters relating to patents, new plant species, integrated circuit designs, trade secrets, software and antitrust, including appeals against Patent Re-examination Board (PRB) and patent office decisions.
Establishing a national IP appeals court has been a frequent topic of discussion in China since the opening of specialized IP courts in 2014.
The changes to the appeals process are aimed at improving the legal environment for technological innovation, providing equal IP protection for domestic and international enterprises, and forming a convenient and international business environment. While many observers predicted the creation of a national appellate IP court in China, it may come as a surprise that the forum is being created within the SPC itself.
 South China Morning Post, December 29, 2018, Zheng Wansqing.