IP court annual report breaks down valuable statistics on appeals cases
The IP Court of the Supreme People's Court of China released its 2022 annual report at the end of March 2023. The report provides a holistic overview of the IP court’s operation since its inception in 2019 with key statistics on its cases handled in the last year, revealing vital information for rights holders seeking to bring appeal cases before the court and raise questions about its future.
Yearly statistics – 2022
In 2022 the IP Court of the Supreme People’s Court recorded 6,183 appeal cases concerning technology-related IP and monopoly disputes, comprising 4,405 new cases and 1,778 old cases from previous years. Of this total, 78.7% (ie, 3,468 cases) were closed. Compared to 2021, there has been an 18% increase in the number of cases accepted, a slight rise of 1.6% in new cases and a minor growth of 0.2% in closed cases.
Average trial period
The average trial period for all cases closed in 2022 was 165.2 days. On average, it takes the court 28.6 days to conclude cases concerning jurisdictional disputes, 179 days for civil appeals and 215 days for administrative appeals.
Average trial periods of civil appeals and administrative appeals have increased 49.6 days and 71.4 days respectively year on year. This surge can be attributed to the growing caseload per judge and impact of the pandemic.
Of the 2,069 civil appeals closed in 2022, 41.3% were closed by maintaining the original judgment, 26.1% by withdrawing lawsuits, 13% by mediation, 0.7% by remanding for retrial and 18.1% by reversing judgments.
Among the 855 administrative appeals closed in 2022, 87.1% were closed by maintaining the original judgment, 6.4% by withdrawing lawsuits, 0.4% by remanding for retrial and 5.8% by reversing judgments.
This data corroborates the fact that it is much harder to reverse administrative decisions in appeal proceedings before the IP Court.
In 2022, the IP Court accepted a total of 2,956 new civil appeals, including 615 invention patent infringement cases (up 6.8% year on year), 968 utility model infringement cases (up 20.1%), 312 patent application and ownership disputes (up 46.5%), 144 new plant variety disputes (up 111.8%), 78 technical secret disputes (down 1.3%), 648 computer software disputes (up 9.3%), 96 technology-related contractual disputes (down 37.3%) and 15 monopoly disputes (down 40%).
The IP Court also accepted a total of 887 new administrative appeals, including 241 disputes concerning reexamination of invention application dismissals (down 47.3% year on year), 234 invention invalidity disputes (down 17.3%), 27 disputes over reexaminations of utility model application dismissals (down 25%), 207 utility model invalidity disputes (down 11.5%), 84 design invalidity disputes (down 17.6%) and 24 monopoly disputes (up 1100%).
The numbers of civil and administrative appeals filed in 2022 diverge into starkly contrasting trajectories. The number of civil appeals has steadily increased for four consecutive years. Conversely, the number of administrative appeals has dwindled for the first time. This decrease seems to align with the China National Intellectual Property Administration’s relentless efforts to curb abnormal and low-quality patent filings.
Aggregate statistics – 2019 to 2022
Since its inception on 1 January 2019, the IP Court has accepted a total of 13,863 technology-related IP and monopoly cases and closed 80.4% (11,148) of them. Between 2019 and 2022, a total of 8,436 civil appeals were accepted, of which 6,420 were closed. Similarly, the court accepted 3,088 administrative appeals and closed 2,462 of them.
Among the 6,420 civil appeals closed during this period, only 107 (1.7%) were remanded for retrial and 1,068 (16.6%) were closed by reversing judgments. Of the 2,462 administrative appeals closed, a mere five (0.2%) were remanded for retrial and 156 cases (6.3%) were closed by reversing judgments.
The proportion of cases remanded for retrial has declined for three consecutive years, from 2.2% in 2020 down to 0.5% in 2022. Meanwhile, the reverse rate of civil appeals has been on the rise for four consecutive years. It reached a record high of 18.1% in 2022, compared to 10.4% in 2019.
Statistics of foreign-related cases
In 2022 the IP Court recorded 457 new foreign-related cases (including those involving parties from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan). These accounted for 10.4% of all new cases, reflecting a year-on-year growth of 4.6%. Of these new cases, 274 were civil appeals and 183 were administrative appeals. A total of 372 cases were closed, exhibiting a sizable year-on-year increase of 32.9% and accounting for 10.7% of the total number of closed cases.
From 2019 to 2022, a total of 1,444 foreign-related cases were accepted, accounting for 10.4% of the total number. Among them, 800 were civil appeals and 644 were administrative appeals. A total of 1,031 cases were closed, constituting 9.2% of all closed cases.
The number of foreign-related IP appeals filed before the court has been steadily growing. The number of cases in which both parties are foreign also continues to rise, accounting for approximately 4% of all foreign-related cases. China is emerging as a prominent international litigation destination for intellectual property.
The future of the IP Court
The IP Court has been honing its expertise in adjudicating technical cases and those related to emerging industries such as biopharma, SEPs, pharmaceutical patent linkages, integrated circuit layout designs and new plant varieties.
When the IP Court was installed as a branch of the Supreme Court, the National People’s Congress set a pilot period of three years, which expired on 1 January 2022. Since then, there has been increasing demand for the creation of a national IP court. With the Supreme People’s Court’s IP Court now in its fifth year, it remains to be seen whether such proposal will materialise and how it would transform the current system.
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