E-Commerce Platforms Up, Trademark Holders Down!

The First China E-Commerce Law lightens the burden of E-commerce platforms when dealing with IPR infringements, while making it more expensive and burdensome for the holders of IP Rights!

The long awaited E-commerce Law of the PRC has been finally approved, entering into force on August 31, 2018. This is the first Law that expressly regulates the relation between IPR owners and e-commerce platforms. The Law seems to favor e-commerce platforms by shifting the whole burden to the right holders to prove infringement in case of disputed takedown notices. Compared to the established business practices, the Law appears to be more e-commerce than IP friendly.

1. An overview of the relevant provisions

Instead of providing strict rules regarding the protection of IP rights online, the new Law has simply codified the current practices on takedown notices. This will leave it to the e-commerce platforms to continue self-regulate the procedures for the takedown of IPR infringing content. In particular, the Law has neither introduced any measure or standards to lighten the burden of proof of infringement of the right holders when filing takedown notices, nor has provided a procedure of effective cross examination of the defenses filed by the alleged infringer in case of disputed takedowns. The platform retains the discretion to examine and interpret the evidence and is free from the burden of having to make a final decision in case of a disputed takedown notice. This is particularly critical in those cases in which the alleged infringer denies liability, shifting the whole burden on the right holders to overcome such refusals by filing judicial or administrative lawsuits!! As we shall see below, this will give counterfeiters a good tactical advantage and will likely increase the number of disputed takedown notices in the future.

Also, the Law does not provide any strict obligation and standards imposing on the platforms the creation of preventive IPR protection systems. Article 45 of the Law only provides a generic obligation for a platform to take appropriate protection measures if the former knows or should have known that a user has infringed others IP rights. Aside from failing to define the standard of “knowledge”, the provision refers to cases where the infringement has already taken place. No specific obligation to prevent postings of obviously infringing content has been introduced, thus freeing the platforms from the obligation and burden of having to take preventive measures. If any such measures are or will be in place, this will be the result of lobbying and self-regulation, and not a consequence of this new law.

As we mentioned above, the Law acknowledges that the IPR holders have a right to request the removal or the block of infringing content by filing a notice with the platform, which must be supported by prima facie evidence of infringement. This is nothing new. It has been the common practice of e-commerce to allow so called takedown notices supported by evidence of infringement.

Like in the consolidated business practice, the Law allows the alleged infringer to defend itself by filing a response to the notice supported by evidence. However, and unlike the text of the 3rd and last draft, the final text of the Law has added to the safe harbor rule of e-commerce platforms, a 15 days time limit for the IPR owner to file a litigation or complaint (maybe with the IP office) or drop the case. If a lawsuit/complaint is filed, the take down measures already taken by the e-commerce platform will remain in place, with the e-commerce platform’s measures becoming a de facto “preliminary injunction”. If not, the measures will be revoked. In practice, an unlike the previous drafts, the platform is taking no further responsibility in deciding who is right or wrong and the law helps her out of trouble by forcing the right holder to escalate the dispute to the judicial level. Continue reading “E-Commerce Platforms Up, Trademark Holders Down!” »

IPR Protection Strategies within the Healthcare Sector in China

The healthcare sector in China is developing rapidly as the rising middle class becomes more and more concerned about quality healthcare services, which are currently quite scarce in China. This, on the other hand,  provides many opportunities for the European SMEs active in the healthcare sector. However, SMEs should pay attention to protecting their IP rights when entering to the lucrative market of China because counterfeiting and other IP infringements still persist in China. For today’s blog post we have chosen to share with you an infographic that will provide you with a basic and easy to read  overview of IP protection in the healthcare sector in China.

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CALISSONS EN DANGER – DES LEÇONS À TIRER ET À RETENIR

Le blogue d’aujourd’hui a été rédigé pour nous par notre expert  en propriété intellectuelle Maître Philippe Girard-Foley de GIRARD-FOLEY & Associates en réponse à la couverture médiatique de l’affaire de Calissons d’Aix. Dans cet article de blogue  Maître Girard-Foley explique le cas en détail et donne quelques conseils sur quelles mesures pourraient être prises pour protéger la marque.

Introduction 

Les médias français résonnent de nouvelles alarmantes concernant l’appropriation des Calissons d’Aix par « la Chine » qui démontrent une grave méconnaissance du sujet. Il paraît urgent de réintroduire dans ce débat un peu de rationalité, ne serait-ce que pour le bénéfice des fabricants concernés et de producteurs français placés dans des conditions semblables de supposée vulnérabilité.

Une marque sans valeur ?

Une marque « Calissons d’Aix » ne vaut rigoureusement rien en Chine sur le plan commercial. Ceci pour la simple et pourtant évidente raison que les mots la constituant sont  incompréhensibles et impossibles à mémoriser pour un consommateur chinois.

La seule valeur de cette marque pourrait être de nuisance, faisant obstacle à l’entrée sur le marché chinois du produit authentique, ce qui serait donc une valeur de rachat.

En termes commerciaux, ce qui compte est (i) la translittération en langue chinoise, basée sur un concept ou sur une analogie phonique, car celle-ci est reconnaissable par le consommateur chinois et (ii) la marque figurative de l’apparence distinctive du calisson. Continue reading “CALISSONS EN DANGER – DES LEÇONS À TIRER ET À RETENIR” »

Bad Faith Trade Mark Registrations in China

Prior trade mark registrations, also called ‘bad-faith registrations’, are a significant problem that many European companies encounter in China. This process commonly involves a Chinese company first registering the trade mark of a foreign company in China with the express intention of selling it back to the foreign company at an inflated price. Finding out that a Chinese company has registered a bad faith trade mark is one of the biggest complaints of European Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) trying to enter the Chinese market. These prior registrations can limit the foreign company’s freedom to operate by restricting its ability to enter the China market or even to source goods from China.

As an example, a Scandinavian SME used a Chinese factory to make its goods for export. The Chinese supplier registered the Scandinavian company’s trade mark in China and engaged China’s customs to intercept export goods bearing the trade mark, thereby disrupting the Scandinavian company’s business. Continue reading “Bad Faith Trade Mark Registrations in China” »

Back to the Basics Series: Protecting Trade Secrets in China Part II

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ConfidentialLast week we explored Chinese laws on trade secrets and discussed some measures that the SMEs can take to protect their trade secrets. This week we get more practical and discuss how the SMEs can use non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements to protect their trade secrets. We will also take a look at the measures the SMEs can take, once the trade secrets have been illegally revealed.

Nearly all businesses in all industries and sectors possess trade secrets. Trade secrets are a valuable and highly useful form of intellectual property right (IPR). As the name suggests however, trade secrets are a non-registrable form of intellectual property; they only enjoy legal protection as long as they are not disclosed publically. It is therefore crucial to prevent your trade secrets from being divulged in the first place. Once out, there is usually very little you can do about it. This concluding piece of a two-part article describes measures you can take to help ensure trade secrets aren’t lost through employees and third parties as well as options available to you should your secrets be disclosed. Check the last issue of Eurobiz for part I of this series which outlined how to identify a trade secret and the physical, technical and contractual barriers you can put in place to protect them.  Continue reading “Back to the Basics Series: Protecting Trade Secrets in China Part II” »