Protecting Intellectual Property Rights

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2012-03-31 13:42
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 In accordance with the arrangements of the State Council, a nationwide campaign to crack down on the infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR) and the manufacture and sale of counterfeit and substandard goods was carried out from October 2010 to June 2011. The campaign, which focused on prominent issues of immediate public interest as well as areas of domestic and international concern, saw various localities and departments from around the country engage in a concentrated effort to tackle intellectual property violations and counterfeiting in fields, regions, and markets where such activity is rife. The successful handling of a string of high-profile cases under the campaign played an important role in safeguarding fair competition in the market and creating conditions more conducive to innovation in China. The campaign was demonstrative of the strategic commitment that China has made to the protection of intellectual property rights.

 April 26, 2011, residents consulting professional personnel about intellectual property rights in Huairou District, Beijing. This day marked the 11th World Intellectual Property Day. / Photo by Xinhua

 The scope and force of the crackdown was totally unprecedented, as was the impact that it exerted both in China and overseas. During the campaign, administrative enforcement authorities at all levels investigated 156,000 separate cases involving a total sum of 3.43 billion yuan. These investigations resulted in the raiding of 9,135 criminal dens and the referral of 1,702 cases to judiciary authorities. Public security authorities handled 15,868 cases across the country, resulting in the closure of 12,854 illegal production sites, the smashing of 4,904 gangs of illegal wholesalers and distributors, the detainment of 29,494 suspects, and a total of 9,031 arrests. These cases involved a total sum of 13.12 billion yuan. The procuratorial authorities at all levels issued arrest warrants for 5,336 persons involved in a total of 2,895 cases, and pressed charges in 2,176 cases. Courts at all levels heard a total of 2,492 criminal cases, among which 1,985 were sentenced. These actions dealt a powerful blow to intellectual property infringement and the manufacture and sale of counterfeit or substandard goods.

 The campaign demonstrated the resolve, attitude and stance of the Chinese government in regard to the protection of intellectual property rights and the fight against the manufacture and sale of counterfeit and substandard goods. Through the campaign, we were able to curb intellectual property violations, piracy, and the manufacture and sale of counterfeit and substandard goods in certain fields and areas. Moreover, the campaign helped to promote the development of a mode for the protection of intellectual property rights involving both administrative and judicial departments as well as a supporting legal framework. The campaign also helped us to raise public awareness in regard to the protection of intellectual property rights and foster public respect for intellectual property rights.

 The central government and local governments attached great importance to the campaign and provided strong organization and leadership. The State Council held a video conference during which Premier Wen Jiabao set forth the arrangements for the campaign. A task force for the campaign headed by Vice Premier Wang Qishan was established with members from 26 organizations. Localities and departments all around the country made the campaign a priority in their respective agendas, established dedicated leading bodies, and formulated plans of action to define specific tasks and priorities. With planning and implementation taking place on multiple levels, various departments worked in collaboration with one another in order to fulfill their respective responsibilities. This provided a strong organizational guarantee to ensure the sound progression of the campaign. 

 We strengthened administrative law enforcement by focusing our efforts in several key aspects. First, we enhanced efforts to combat the manufacture of counterfeit goods at the source. Quality inspection departments made greater efforts to uncover the manufacturing sources of fake automobile parts, mobile phones, toys, clothing, shoes, and small household appliances. The Ministry of Agriculture made a focused effort to crack down on the production of counterfeit agricultural supplies, taking rigorous punitive action against the manufacture and sale of counterfeit agricultural supplies and seeds. The General Administration of Press and Publication imposed strict inspections in the printing industry in order to crack down on piracy. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology strengthened its supervision over the preloading of authorized operating systems in new computers in an effort to ensure that more computers are shipped with authorized software. Second, we stepped up our supervision and management of the market. Local administrations for industry and commerce rigorously cracked down on the infringement of foreign and well-known domestic trademarks, successfully handling a number of cases regarding brands such as Nike, Canon, and Lenovo. Departments responsible for copyright administration increased their efforts to regulate the publishing market, concluding a number of influential cases involving copyright infringement. Departments responsible for the management of intellectual property rights enhanced their efforts in law enforcement and inspection to crack down on patent fraud in regard to new and advanced technologies, the manufacture of foods and drugs, and industrial design. Third, we strengthened import and export inspections and stepped up our efforts to combat piracy on the Internet. Customs authorities enhanced risk analysis and surveillance over key shipping routes and ports, and raised the proportion of export goods subject to inspection. Commerce departments joined other related departments in a campaign to crack down on counterfeit and substandard goods in domestic markets, and significant efforts were also made to regulate online shopping and shopping via radio and television. Cultural departments made efforts to rectify music products on the Internet and gaming websites that were in violation of regulations. Food and drug supervision departments launched strict investigations into the sale of fake drugs online and the use of the Internet to spread false information in regard to drugs.

 We took stern judicial action in order to protect public interests. Public security authorities across the country launched an operation codenamed “Sharp Sword” to crack down on the manufacture and sale of fake and substandard goods, and in particular fake seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, foods, drugs, chemical articles of everyday use, and fake brand-name products. In a major offensive headed by elite police forces, public security authorities uncovered a number of cases pertaining to the manufacture and sale of fake drugs, foods and agricultural supplies, all of which had a bearing on the public well-being, and seized thousands of tons of fake alcohol, fertilizers and seeds. The procuratorial organs at all levels took a stern stance, acting quickly to issue arrest warrants and press charges against infringements of intellectual property rights and the manufacture and sale of counterfeit or substandard goods. Providing support for the campaign, courts at all levels raised the level of judicial protection over intellectual property rights and fulfilled their duties in the deliberation of cases, issuing strict punishments to a number of offenders found guilty of intellectual property violations and counterfeiting.

  We gave priority to key tasks in order to ensure the effectiveness of the campaign. Working together in collaboration with other departments, the office of the national task force of the campaign identified 36 key tasks and 13 matters for priority supervision, and formulated specific time-frames to monitor the progress of these efforts. The Ministry of Agriculture, the General Administration of Customs, the General Administration for Industry and Commerce, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, the General Administration of Press and Publication, and the State Intellectual Property Office identified 15 key markets and 16 manufacturing areas for the focus of their efforts in the campaign. Authorities in provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government concentrated their efforts on the rectification of 327 key areas and markets, with the focus being foods, medicines, seeds, automobile parts, mobile phones, and software. 

 We intensified investigation and supervision in a crackdown on major cases. The national task force identified 80 priority cases and designated principals for the handling and supervision of each one in order to ensure progress in line with the prescribed time-frames and achieve solid results in each case. The General Administration of Press and Publication, working in association with the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Supreme People’s Court, listed a total of 205 major cases in 6 batches for priority supervision and inspection. The Ministry of Commerce, working with the Ministry of Public Security and the General Administration for Industry and Commerce, conducted on-site supervisions in a number of cases involving the infringement of intellectual property rights in the sale of goods over the Internet. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Supervision launched a campaign to supervise administrative law enforcement authorities in the referral of cases over to procuratorate authorities, taking stern action against the dereliction of duty and acts of misconduct. These efforts brought closer integration between administrative law enforcement departments and criminal justice departments, and provided a boost for the handling of criminal cases. 

 We initiated a publicity campaign in order to build up public support. Under the instructions of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, the People’s Daily, the Xinhua News Agency, China Central Television, China Radio International and the China Daily devoted important broadcasting slots and column space to the coverage of the campaign, while local authorities engaged in active publicity efforts. The Information Office of the State Council and other departments concerned held almost 20 press conferences to provide updates on the campaign. Various activities to destroy counterfeit goods were carried out by related departments in different regions. The national and local media disclosed a series of major cases and gave publicity to the exemplary actions of personnel involved in the campaign through news reports and interviews. These efforts came together to form a multi-dimensional publicity campaign that was carried out on a sustained basis. During the campaign, major media outlets issued more than 23,000 news reports, which served as a strong deterrent to offenders and a warning to enterprises and operators involved in illegal activities. Sustained media coverage also helped to rally a high level of public support behind the campaign. At the same time, the media also gave play to its role as a public supervisor, disclosing leads that led to the conclusion of a number of high-profile cases.

 We improved guarantee measures and made breakthroughs in the application of authorized software. The General Administration of Press and Publication (the National Copyright Administration) joined 18 other government departments in establishing permanent mechanisms for coordination in order to intensify guidance, supervision, and investigation. The Ministry of Finance took active steps to integrate government expenses for the purchase of software into fiscal budgets, and put forward clear requirements on the purchase, use, and administration of software. The Government Offices Administration of the State Council developed a platform for centralized government purchasing and organized training in regard to price and service negotiations and purchasing. These efforts provided a strong backing to ensure the application of authorized software in government offices. By May 2011, the headquarter offices of 135 organs under the CPC Central Committee and the State Council had conducted inspections to guarantee the use of authorized software in their places of work. Moreover, of these organizations, a total of 74 also completed inspections on the use of authorized software in their subordinate organs. Efforts to promote the use of authorized software in local governments also progressed on schedule. A total of 27 cities (prefectures) and 106 counties under the provinces of Shandong, Anhui, Sichuan, Jiangsu and Fujian, the municipalities of Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, and the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Guangxi became the first to complete inspections on the use of authorized software within their respective jurisdictions. Central and local governments spent more than 560 million yuan on the purchase of 640,000 copies of authorized software. The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission enhanced its efforts to promote the use of authorized software in large state-owned enterprises, achieving positive results. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology strengthened its regulation of the preloading of authorized software in new computers for sale. More than 98% of preloaded operating systems are now fully licensed. 

 We also placed an emphasis on institutional development and made constant improvements to our working mechanisms. In addition to cracking down on the infringement of intellectual property rights and counterfeiting, localities and departments across the country also turned their attention to institutional development and devoted efforts to the construction of permanent mechanisms for the protection of intellectual property rights. The Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security jointly promulgated the Opinions on Applicable Laws for Criminal Cases Involving the Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights, presenting solutions to legal issues that had obstructed the process of investigation, prosecution and deliberation in infringement cases on a long-term basis. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate promoted the development of a platform for the sharing of information between administrative law enforcement authorities and criminal justice authorities in order to bring the two closer together. The governments of Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin established working mechanisms under which they could jointly prevent and crack down on violations of intellectual property rights and the manufacture of counterfeit and substandard goods. This mechanism helped them to cooperate with one another effectively and coordinate their respective efforts. In Chongqing, a highly-efficient platform for the resolution of IPR disputes was established on the basis of coordination between 11 departments, including departments for intellectual property rights, industry and commerce, copyright, and public security. In Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, mobile courts were established in priority areas for the protection of intellectual property rights, such as industrial zones, major trading centers and shopping malls. These initiatives exerted the role that IPR judgments can play as a form of deterrent, education and guidance.    

 We enhanced multilateral and bilateral exchanges and thus increased mutual trust and understanding. The office of the national task force for the campaign and its member departments invited foreign organizations to participate in a symposium on the protection of intellectual property rights. During the symposium, we engaged in frank exchanges with foreign enterprises and institutions based in China and sought their opinions and advice in regard to IPR protection. The Ministry of Commerce made full use of the working groups and dialogue mechanisms on IPR that China has established with six parties, including the US, the EU and Japan, to engage in discussions on issues of mutual concern in regard to intellectual property. The General Administration of Customs, the General Administration for Industry and Commerce, and the National Copyright Administration established mechanisms for the routine reception of foreign companies and patentees, and also carried out various exchanges with other countries. The Senior IPR Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in China paid visits to Guangdong, Fujian, Qingdao, Chongqing and other places to engage in local exchanges and follow the progress of the campaign. Following the visits, the Senior IPR Attaché gave a high appraisal of China’s efforts to crack down on the infringement of intellectual property and counterfeiting.

 We displayed the achievements of the campaign online and established a platform for interactions between the government and the general public. On July 11, 2011, the member departments of the national task force began to display the achievements of the campaign online. Through this innovative approach, we demonstrated the achievements of the campaign to the general public directly in the form of facts, data, and typical cases. The exhibition was much more accessible to the public than a traditional physical exhibition, being free of limitations such as visiting times, space, and attendance capacity. The display also included a variety of interactive elements, such as online interviews, a message board, and an area where participants could learn how to distinguish counterfeit items. These activities helped us to explain policies, laws and regulations, answer the queries of attendees, and show people how to recognize and avoid falling victim to counterfeit goods. We also set up a complaints section where visitors were able to file complaints online, which served as an effective tool to warn against infringements and enhance the role of public supervision. By the end of October 15, 2001, more than 50 million people in China and abroad had visited the exhibition, with the number of daily visits peaking at over 2 million.

 The effort to protect intellectual property rights and crack down on the manufacture and sale of counterfeit and substandard goods is a long-term, complex and arduous task. As such, there is no way that success can be accomplished in a single stroke. China is currently undergoing a stage of rapid industrialization and urbanization, and this is a period in which we are presented with both opportunities and conflicts. Though it is inevitable that all campaigns will come to an end, the effort to crack down on the infringement of intellectual property rights and counterfeiting of goods will surely go on.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.21, 2011)

Author: Director of the Office of the National Task Force for the Special Campaign Against IPR Infringement and Counterfeiting; Vice Minister of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China

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