Apostille Convention marks transformative step forward for foreign IP litigants in China

The legalisation of power-of-attorney (POA) documentations in China has just undergone a significant transformation. On 8 March 2023 China formally joined the Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (the Apostille Convention), which came into effect on 7 November 2023 and is resulting in positive changes for foreign IP owners.

The Apostille Convention – from the Hague Conference on private international law – aims to alleviate the complexities associated with validating and authenticating public documents for cross-border use. The notifying acts, documents from authorities or officials connected to courts or tribunals of the state (including those from a public prosecutor, a court clerk or process server) are, among others, deemed to be public documents.

The implementation of the convention marks a sizeable step forward for foreign litigants and individuals seeking to use foreign documents in China. Previously, foreign documents that were intended for use in the country had to undergo a complex and time-consuming validation process. This often involved notarisation, authentication by the issuing country's authorities and further legalisation by the relevant Chinese embassy or consulate.

This will completely transform the landscape. From 7 November 2023 all that is now required for foreign documents is an apostille issued by the competent authority in the document's country of origin. This certifies the document's authenticity, which renders obsolete the need for additional authentication from the relevant Chinese consulate. This streamlined process will not only simplify document validation but also reduce costs and expedite the overall procedure, making cross-border legal transactions, business agreements and personal affairs in China much more efficient.

The impact of this change is far reaching. It is expected to facilitate a wide range of international activities, including legal processes and business ventures. Foreign litigants, particularly IP owners, will be relieved of the burden of legalising identification and POA documents for each administrative litigation filed against decisions made by the China National Intellectual Property Administration. This simplification will significantly reduce barriers to effective legal representation and international engagement.

China's accession to the Apostille Convention signifies a seismic shift in the way that foreign documents are validated and recognised. It aligns China with global standards, enhancing its attractiveness as a destination for international activities. This development marks a significant milestone in China's ongoing commitment to international cooperation and the simplification of cross-border legal processes.

In practice, although various Chinese embassies have already announced the cessation of legalisation service, foreign litigants are still advised to heed the documentation requirements of the Chinese courts, which may maintain the status quo unless otherwise instructed by the Supreme Court. Hopefully, it will be a swift and seamless transition.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

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