As part of larger institutional reorganization schemes, the Chinese government has recently issued a draft statute for the reform of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO). SIPO, until now an agency subordinated to the executive branch (i.e. the State Council), will be organized under a newly created super agency in charge of IP and product quality and safety. Among the goals of the reform are administrative simplification and increased efficiency in handling IP related matters, as well as the improved protection of the intellectual property rights of foreign entities and individuals in China.
Under the reform, SIPO, currently the administration in charge of patents, will be reorganized under the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), a new government body formed by the incorporation of several and currently separated administrative bodies. Among them are the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) today in charge of trademarks and trade names, the State Food and Drugs Administration (SFDA), in charge of the registration and administration of food, cosmetics, medicines and medical devices and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the product quality and product recall watchdog.
As a result of the reform, SIPO will extend its current responsibilities in the administration of patents to the administration of trademarks (currently charged upon SAIC) and geographical indications (currently with SFDA). Therefore, the reorganized SIPO will be responsible for the registration of patents, trademarks, integrated circuit layout, and geographical indications as well as issuing the corresponding administrative decisions. It will also provide guidance/direction for the enforcement of patents and trademarks at administrative level. In practice, the current structure of the administrative enforcement of trademarks under the territorially competent AIC may be drastically reformed.
It is also worth noting that the IP protection administration under SIPO will be put under the same umbrella of product quality supervision and administration. In this way China seems to create a Super authority that will be watching over the market and “Products” from their major angles, including IP, safety registrations and quality/consumer protection.
Since the reorganization of SIPO is part of a major institutional reform, it may take months or even years to complete. However, the hope is that these changes will significantly improve protection of foreign IP rights in China.