On April 21, 2020, China’s Supreme People’s Court released a list of the top 10 intellectual property law cases of 2019. The cases cover patent (invention and design), trademark, copyright, unfair competition and criminal trademark law. Cases in the list were adjudicated by Courts spread over China and at different appeal levels.
- Case No. (2019) Supreme Law Zhimin No. 2. Patent infringement: Valeo Systèmes d’Essuyage SASU v. Xiamen Lucas Auto Parts Co., Ltd., Xiamen Fuke Auto Parts Co., Ltd., and Chen Shaoqiang. Valeo, a French company, sued the defendants for patent infringement of patent # ZL200610160549.2 entitled “Connector of wiper of motor vehicle and corresponding connecting device.” The Supreme People’s Court upheld a finding of infringement based on claim interpretation.
- Case No. (2019) Supreme Law No. 138. Trademark Infringement: Honda Technology Co., Ltd. v. Chongqing Hengsheng Group Co., Ltd. and Chongqing Hengsheng Xintai Trading Co., Ltd. Honda has trademarks for the Honda brand in class 12 for automobiles and motorcycles. However, the defendants were licensed to use a Myanmar trademark for HONDAKIT. Chinese customs seized motorcycle parts bound for Myanmar labeled HONDAKIT. Honda sued and won 300,000 RMB in damages. The Supreme People’s Court reversed the appeals court and upheld the first instance judgment finding infringement.
- Case No. (2018) Beijing Bank Final 137. Trademark invalidation: Shanghai Junke Trading Co., Ltd. v. Trademark Review Committee of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and Yao Hongjun. Junke filed for a trademark “MLGB” number 8954893 and was approved for class 25 for clothing. Yao filed an invalidation request with the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, which ruled that the trademark MLGB was invalid for being “uncivilized language” and therefore socially harmful. Junke argued that MLGB actually means “My Life’s Getting Better” instead of sexual intercourse with one’s mother and that the Court should “understand the perceptions of the parties and the public from the perspective of kindness, and believe that people are noble, which is in line with the spirit of the legal system and existing jurisprudence, and only then can the law play a positive role in guiding noble and kind customs.” Junke lost.
- Case No. (2018) Jingmin Jun 226. Copyright and Unfair Competition. Minghe News Publishing Co., Ltd. and Perfect World (Beijing) Software Co. v. Beijing Huogu Network Technology Co., Ltd., Kunlun Wanwei Technology Co., Ltd. and Kunlun Lexiang Network Technology Co., Ltd. In the first instance, the defendants lost on unfair competition, but not copyright, for developing games based on The Legend of Condor Heroes novels (famous martial arts novels). The defendants were ordered to pay damages of 16,319,658 RMB (about $2.3 million USD). The Beijing Higher People’s Court ruled that there was copyright infringement based on adaptation and so unfair competition grounds were moot.
- Case No. (2018) Shanghai 0115 Minchu No. 53351. Trademark Infringement. Balanced Body Inc. v. Yongkang Yilian Sports Equipment Co., Ltd. Balanced Body, an American Pilates company, is the registrant of the trademark MOTR for fitness equipment. Punitive damages were awarded to Balanced Body because the defendant violated a previous settlement agreement not to infringe.
- Case No. (2019) Yuemin No. 407. Design Patent Infringement. Shenzhen Tencent Computer System Co., Ltd. v. Tan Fawen. Tan was granted a design patent for a speaker and was immediately sued by Tencent for copyright and trademark infringement. The two parties settled for 25,000 RMB and requiring Tan to withdraw the design patent. Instead, several years later, Tan sued Tencent and Shenzhen Zhongke Ruicheng Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd. that produced speakers for Tencent for design patent infringement. Tencent immediately filed a request for invalidation, which was successful. Tencent then filed against Tan in the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court of Guangdong Province for filing a malicious intellectual property lawsuit knowing that the design patent should lapsed or withdrawn. The Court awarded 500,000 RMB to Tencent and Guangdong Higher People’s Court affirmed.
- Case No. (2018) Su Minzhong No. 1054. Copyright Infringement. Suzhou Snail Digital Technology Co., Ltd. v. Beijing Aiqiyi Technology Co., Ltd. and Chengdu Tianxiang Interactive Technology Co., Ltd. Snail sued the defendants for copyright infringement for copying their game Tai Chi Panda in their game Hua Qian Gu by “changing the skin.” That is, the underlying gameplay rules, calculations, interface, maps, etc. are the same and only the character images, soundtrack and voices were changed. The Jiangsu Higher People’s Court upheld the Suzhou Intermediate People’s Court ruling for the plaintiff including injunction and 30 million RMB in damages.
- Case No. (2019) Zhemin Terminal No. 22. Trademark Infringement. Hangzhou Morris Technology Co., Ltd. et al. v. Hangzhou Morris Technology Co., Ltd. et al. Morris owned an well known trademark for AOPU and sued the defendants for infringement. The Zhejiang Provincial Higher People’s Court upheld a judgement of 8 million RMB.
- Case No. (2019) Qianmin Jun 449. Copyright Infringement. Hebei Shanren Sculpture Co., Ltd. v. Hebei Zhongding Garden Sculpture Co., Ltd. et al. Shanren sent drawings of a proposed sculpture for the Sanhe Town Martyrs Cemetery to defendants. One of the defendants manufactured and installed the sculpture in the cemetery based on the drawings without authorization of Shanren. Shanren sued in Intermediate People’s Court of Zunyi City, Guizhou Province and was awarded 120,000 RMB, which it deemed insufficient and appealed. No injunction (which would have required destruction of the sculpture) was awarded. The Guizhou Provincial Higher People ’s Court affirmed the decision but increased the damages to 200,000 RMB and said the sculpure was important for revolutionary education and patriotism education and should not be demolished.
- Case No. (2018) Min 02 Xingjun No. 632. Criminal Trademark. Xiamen Siming District People’s Procuratorate v. Xiamen Delemeng Technology Co., Ltd., Xiamen Xinghengchang Trading Co., Ltd., Yang Mingfeng, and Yang Maogan. Victim, SKF (China) Co., Ltd., is the Chinese subsidiary of AB SKF, a a Swedish bearing and seal manufacturing company. Defendants purchased bearings and used a laser coding machine to print SKF’s trademarks on the bearings and resold them. They generated over 2 million RMB in revenue and had unsold products of 1.51 million RMB. Delemeng and Xinghengchang were fined of 350,000 yuan and 2.3 million yuan respectively. Yang Mingfeng and Yang Maogan were sentenced to five years and four years in prison respectively plus fines. On appeal, Yang Maogan’s punishment was reduced to a suspended sentence due to compensation to SKF for their crimes and reporting to the police on other crimes including a casino and narcotics sales.
The China Supreme People’s Court also released a list of 50 typical cases, available here.