Harsher penalty awaits violators of intellectual property rights for seeds

Updated: Feb 23, 2024 Print
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A large rice stalk is seen in a paddy field in Southwest China's Chongqing on Sept 24, 2021. [Photo/IC]

China will continue to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights involving seeds, with stricter penalties for violators, to help ensure food security and advance technological innovations in the agricultural sector, an official from the country's top court said.

"By enforcing punitive damages, we'll provide stronger judicial support to those who own seed-related IP rights," He Zhonglin, first deputy chief judge of the Intellectual Property Court of the Supreme People's Court, said on Thursday.

The court has slapped punitive damages, which means compensation in excess of actual damages, on violators in a total of 11 cases since its inception, the IP court judge said, adding that many of the cases involved infringement of new plant variety rights.

In one instance, the court ordered an information platform operator to pay 3 million yuan ($417,300) in punitive damages after it was found to have infringed on the IP rights of a new variety of rice.

Pledging to better implement the newly amended Seed Law, he added that the court will also increase coordination and cooperation with government departments connected with agriculture.

Data released by the top court showed that from January 2019, when the IP Court was established, to the end of last year, it had tackled 481 cases related to new varieties of plants, of which 364 had been concluded.

"Most crops have been covered in the cases, and the IP Court ruled in favor of the owners of plant variety rights in more than 80 percent of the completed lawsuits," He said. "The amount of compensation violators have to pay is also rising."

While focusing more on handling seed-related cases, he said that the IP Court is also working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to conduct research and provide training for judges as well as administrators.

In addition, an expert database for enhancing judicial protection of IP rights involving seeds has been set up, he added.

As a division of the country's top court, the IP Court was created to mainly tackle civil and administrative appeals related to invention patents, new varieties of plants, integrated circuits, technical secrets, computer software and monopolies.

Since its inception, litigants dissatisfied with rulings made by intermediate courts at the city or prefecture level, or by other specialized IP courts, have been allowed to appeal directly to the national-level IP Court instead of first appealing to provincial high courts.

"Thanks to the streamlined litigation process, the quality and efficiency of IP-related case handling have improved," said Tao Kaiyuan, vice-president of the top court.

According to Tao, the IP Court had dealt with 18,924 cases through the end of last year, and 15,710 of them had been concluded.

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