China has intensified its efforts to protect intellectual property rights over the past year, with more steps planned for this year, such as amending the Patent Law to substantially increase the cost of infringement, authorities said on Tuesday.
Courts across the country handled a surge in IPR-related cases - 288,000 of them, an increase of 42 percent year-on-year - Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said in the annual work report of the top court to China's top legislature.
A national-level court, a new division of the Supreme People's Court, was set up in Beijing in January to specialize in hearing civil patent appeals.
Three intellectual property courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and 19 tribunals for IPR-related cases across the country have improved to offer a sound legal environment for technological innovation, the work report said.
Procuratorates across the country also strengthened judicial protection of intellectual property last year, supervising the handling of 32 major IPR-related cases, according to the work report of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, which was released on Tuesday.
Last year, 8,325 people were charged with crimes involving intellectual property, such as patent and trademark infringements, an increase of 16.3 percent year-on-year, the report said.
The increases are the result of the combined efforts of the government, judiciary and society, said Ma Yide, a national legislator and a professor specializing in intellectual property at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, Hubei province.
"The awareness and atmosphere of IPR protection is getting much stronger in China," Ma said, adding that he is considering submitting a motion to the top legislature on drafting a law to protect business secrets that lie at the core of an enterprise.
On Tuesday, Shen Changyu, head of the State Intellectual Property Office, said the country will improve laws and regulations by establishing a system of punitive damages to substantially raise the cost of infringement.
The latest amendment to China's Patent Law stipulates that punitive damages for intentional infringement can reach up to five times the amount of the infringement, which is relatively high by global standards, he said on the sidelines of the ongoing two sessions.
"At the same time, we have started a new round of preparation for the revision of the Trademark Law," he added.
Shen said China will also focus on international cooperation with respect to intellectual property rights, promote technological and trade exchanges between Chinese and foreign companies and boost the development of an open economy.
Shen said that last year, China paid royalties of 230 billion yuan ($34 billion) on imported intellectual property, a more than 20 percent year-on-year increase. It received 37 billion yuan in royalties on exported intellectual property that year, a nearly 15 percent year-on-year increase.
In addition, the country is exploring the establishment of an overseas intellectual property rights protection assistance center to safeguard its intellectual property.
"We need to step up our efforts to safeguard Chinese intellectual property rights abroad," he said.