Are Chinese Intellectual Property Courts Fair?

Lan Rongjie, “Are Intellectual Property Litigants Treated Fairer in China’s Courts? An Emprical Study of Two Sample Courts,” Indiana University Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business, Working Paper #16, January 2021.

The world is abuzz about how Chinese courts have found against Apple’s claims of the iPad trademark in the PRC, and what it will mean for both Apple and IPR in China in the future. Against what we see happening this week, it is useful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

In an empirical study of two courts in China, Lan Rongjie finds that for several reasons, you are more likely to get a fair trial in an IPR case in Chinese courts than in any other type of civil action.

Apparently, judges are more likely to defer to experts in such cases, and they are likely to be much more careful in rendering a verdict, especially when foreign parties are the plaintiffs.

The paper will be of scant comfort to Apple’s attorneys this week, but it does remind us that companies as varied as Louis Vuitton, Starbucks, and Lego have all won intellectual property cases against local Chinese businesses.

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