On December 25, 2020, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) announced (国知办函运字〔2020〕1154号) a 3-year pilot program to allow foreign patent firms to open up representative offices in Beijing and Jiangsu province. This is somewhat similar to what is already permitted for foreign law firms.
In the pilot, foreign patent firms can open representative offices in Beijing’s Zhongguancun Science and Technology Park, Suzhou’s High-tech Zone and the National Intellectual Property Service Industry Cluster Development Zone in Jiangning District, Nanjing. The business scope of the representative offices includes:
(1) Provide the parties with consultation on patent affairs in the country or region where the foreign patent agency has been approved to engage in patent agency business;
(2) Accept the entrustment of a party or a Chinese patent agency to handle patent affairs in a country or region where the foreign patent agency has been approved to engage in patent agency business;
(3) Intellectual property training services;
(4) Intellectual property licensing and transfer services;
(5) Accept the entrustment of the parties or Chinese patent agencies to provide professional services for Chinese enterprises’ overseas investment, overseas early warning, overseas rights protection and other activities;
(6) On behalf of foreign parties, entrust a Chinese patent agency to handle Chinese patent affairs.
At item 6 indicates, representative offices “shall not engage in Chinese patent affairs and Chinese legal affairs such as patent applications and invalidation of patent rights.”
To establish a representative office in China, the following conditions must be met:
1. The foreign patent agency has legally practiced in its home country and has not received self-discipline or administrative punishment for its practice;
2. The chief representative and representative of a representative office shall have patent agency qualifications, and have been practicing patent agency outside China for no less than 2 years, and have not received self-discipline or administrative punishment for their practice.
3. The foreign patent agency has more than 10 patent agents practicing in its own country.
This may have little benefit for U.S. law firms as many U.S. law firms with strong patent practices have already opened representative offices in China. More details are available here: 2．外国专利代理机构在华设立常驻代表机构试点工作实施要点 (Chinese only).