China’s Supreme People Court (SPC) on April 21 released a list of the top 10 intellectual property cases of 2021. In 2021, the numbers of civil, administrative, and criminal IP cases which people's courts of all levels in China both heard and issued rulings in surpassed 600,000, reaching 642,968 and 601,544 respectively, up 22.33% and 14.71% year on year.
Jiangxi province-based Chinese company Double Rider Medicine Co., Ltd. (双飞人制药股份有限公司) in 2014 sued French company Haribo Ricqles Zan (法国利佳制药厂) and its Chinese exclusive distributor Guangzhou Laitesi Business Consultancy Co., Ltd. (广州赖特斯商务咨询有限公司) for infringing its registered “Double Riders” trademarks and trade dress. Double Rider Medicine was a National Equities Exchange and Quotations (NEEQ)-listed company founded in 2008, registered the “Double Riders (Chinese: 双飞人)” trademarks for goods and services in Class 3 cosmetics and cleaning substances in 2001 and two three-dimensional trademarks for peppermint aqua products. Haribo Ricqles Zan was a confectionery company incorporated in 1957, manufacturing and distributing worldwide the Ricqles mint alcohol, which was created as a medicine by Dutch wine merchant Henri de Ricqlès in 1838 in Lyon, France. The French company had the alcohol trademarked “双飞人 (Double Riders)” to be imported into Hongkong for sale and advertised as such in mainland China before 2014. And it registered the “Lijia (Chinese: 利佳)” trademarks for goods and services in Class 3 likewise in China in 2013 and began to exclusively license Guangzhou Laitesi to distribute, promote, and advertise the Lijia Peppermint Cure, the renamed version of the Ricqles mint alcohol, in mainland China in 2014. The trial court found for Double Rider Medicine and the appellate court upheld the lower court ruling. On appeal, the Supreme People’s Court overturned the appellate court ruling and found for Haribo Ricqles Zan and Guangzhou Laitese holding the French company’s prior user rights defense to be valid.
Case docket no.: （2020）最高法民再23号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 23, retrial case (再), civil case (民), (2020) Supreme People’s Court (（2020）最高法)
Jiaxing Zhonghua Chemical Co., Ltd. (嘉兴中华化工公司) and Shanghai Xinchen New Technology Co., Ltd. (上海欣晨新技术有限公司) in 2018 sued Wanglong Group (王龙集团), Ningbo Wanglong Technology Co., Ltd. (宁波王龙科技股份有限公司), and Xifu Lion King Dragon Spices (Ningbo) Co., Ltd. (喜孚狮王龙香料（宁波）有限公司) for misappropriating its trade secrets. Established in 1976, Jiaxing Zhonghua was a strong manufacturer of vanilla, a food flavoring. It seized 60% of the global market share with a method co-developed by it and Shanghai Xinchen for synthesizing vanillin by using glyoxylic acid and guaiacol together in 2002. Wanglong Group and Ningbo Wanglong purchased the confidential method stolen by a Jiaxing Zhonghua’s ex-employee to boost its production capacity and saturate the market, resulting in Jiaxing Zhonghua’s shrunk market share and the plunge of the vanilla price across the board. The trial court ruled against the defendants and ordered them to pay 3.5 million yuan ($530,000) in damages. And the court also granted an action preservation order to freeze all the data relating to the defendants’ infringement. The defendants didn’t cease the practices despite the ruling and refused to implement the preservation order. The plaintiffs appealed the case to the Supreme People’s Court, which in turn increased the amount of the damages to 159 million yuan ($25 million).
Case docket no.: （2020）最高法知民终1667号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 1667, second instance (终), civil case (民), Intellectual Property Tribunal (知), (2020) Supreme People’s Court (（2020）最高法)
Fifteen automobile driver training schools in Luqiao district, Taizhou city, Zhejiang province, signed an affiliation agreement and a self-regulation convention, agreeing to jointly fund the establishment of a governing body, namely Taizhou Luqiao Zhedong Driver Training Service Co., Ltd. (台州市路桥区浙东驾驶员培训服务有限公司), to achieve a mutually beneficiary ecology and exclude unfair competition. With the agreement and the convention in place, all affiliated training schools offered uniform prices to student drivers and all training cars and coaches were precluded from being traded between the schools. Zhedong functioned as a general logistic facility bundling up all the services including registrations, physical checkups, student card making, etc. all schools provided for their own student drivers as individual entities in exchange for 850 yuan ($130) as a service fee allocated from the training tuition payable by every student. Article 3 of the affiliation agreement specified Zhedong’s registered capital and shareholding structure. Taizhou Luqiao Jili Driver Training Co., Ltd. and Taizhou Luqiao Chengrong Driver Training Co., Ltd., which were among the fifteen affiliated companies, sued the other 13 affiliated schools for monopolistic practices and sought a declaration that the affiliation agreement and the self-regulation convention were invalid. The trial court ruled for the defendants applying the provisions for the monopoly exemptions on the grounds that Zhedong’s offering of unified services was in the interest of all affiliated entities in terms of service efficiency and affirming its charge of service fees was proper. The trial court invalidated portions of the agreement and the convention establishing a horizontal monopoly. The plaintiffs appealed the case to the Supreme People’s Court, seeking a declaration that the provisions for Zhedong’s registered capital and shareholding structure were invalid instead. On appeal, the Supreme People's Court invalidated the whole of the agreement and the convention affirming their anti-competitive nature.
Case docket no.: （2020）最高法知民终1722号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 1722, second instance (终), civil case (民), Intellectual Property Tribunal (知), (2020) Supreme People’s Court (（2020）最高法)
Jiangsu Jindi Seed Technology Co., Ltd. (江苏省金地种业科技有限公司) sued Jiangsu Qingengtian Agricultural Industry Development Co., Ltd. (江苏亲耕田农业产业发展有限公司) for infringing its rights to the new plant variety “Jin Jing Eight One Eight (Chinese: 金粳818).” Jiangsu Jindi was the exclusive licensee of the rights to the new rice variety “Jin Jing Eight One Eight.” Jiangsu Qingengtian advertised trading information about the allegedly infringed rice variety in its physical stores as well as on its online platform without authorization in a bid to broker deals as an agent. Jiangsu Qingengtian charged subscription fees for the information and provided services relating to deals. The trial court ruled for Jiangsu Jindi and ordered Jiangsu Qingengtian to pay 3 million yuan ($460,000) in damages and costs on the ground that what Jiangsu Qingengtian committed was not direct infringement but induced infringement. Jiangsu Qingengtian appealed the case to the Supreme People’s Court, which in turn upheld the lower court ruling on the amount of the damages and vacated the ruling that Jiangsu Qingengtian was merely liable for inducing infringement on the grounds that Jiangsu Qingengtian had directly negotiated deals about the infringed rice variety with the users of its online platform.
Case docket no.: （2021）最高法知民终816号
Case docket no. English transliteration is816, second instance (终), civil case (民), Intellectual Property Tribunal (知), (2021) Supreme People’s Court (（2021）最高法)
Chinese inventor Zhou Qin (周勤) sued Wuxi Ruizhishun Mechanic Equipment Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (无锡瑞之顺机械设备制造有限公司) for infringing his patent No. 202412693U covering a drain board forming machine and filed for a pre-action preservation order, which the trial court in turn granted. During trial, Ruizhishun destroyed the evidence of infringement in spite of the order. The trial court ruled for the plaintiff and awarded the damages in an amount sought by the plaintiff. In addition, the trial court issued a judicial order to fine the defendant 200,000 yuan ($13,000) as correction. Ruizhishun appealed the case to the Supreme People’s Court, which in turn upheld the lower court ruling.
Case docket no.: （2021）最高法知民终334号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 334, second instance (终), civil case (民), Intellectual Property Tribunal (知), (2021) Supreme People’s Court (（2021）最高法)
Wyeth, LLC (惠氏有限责任公司) and its Chinese unit Wyeth Shanghai Trading Co., Ltd. (惠氏（上海）贸易有限公司) sued Guangzhou Wyeth Baby Maternal and Infant Products Co., Ltd. (广州惠氏宝贝母婴用品有限公司) for infringing their trademark “Wyeth” and its Chinese transliteration “惠氏”. Wyeth, LLC was an American pharmaceutical company. American Home Products was founded in 1860 and rebranded as Wyeth in 2002, which in turn sold its infant and maternal nutrition business to Nestlé in 2012. Wyeth traced its nutrition business back to 1915 when Henry Grestberger manufactured the first formula patterned after breast milk called SMA (synthetic milk adaptive). Guangzhou Wyeth filed applications for the trademark “Wyeth” and its Chinese transliteration “惠氏” in bad faith in China before Wyeth, LLC’s filings, and advertised its fake association with Wyeth, LLC in its online and offline outlets to make huge profits. The trial court ruled for the plaintiff and awarded it 30 million yuan in punitive damages. The appellate court upheld the lower court ruling.
Case docket no.: （2021）浙民终294号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 294, second instance (终), civil case (民), (2021) Zhejiang High People’s Court (（2021）浙)
China National Acrobatic Troupe Co., Ltd. (中国杂技团有限公司) sued Wuqiao County Sangyuan Town Zhang Shuo Acrobatic Troupe (吴桥县桑园镇张硕杂技团) for infringing its copyright on an acrobatic show Gorgeous Girls - Diabolo (《俏花旦—集体空竹》). China Acrobatic hired two authors to create the show in 2004, which debuted in 2005 and was a commercial and artistic success. Playing the Chinese yo-yo, the counterpart of the diabolo, was a traditional Chinese acrobatic act. Zhang Shuo Acrobatic began to put on Chinese yo-yo playing shows in 2003 and performed a show Gorgeous Girls (《俏花旦》) for a high-profile festival gala in 2017. China Acrobatic accused Zhang Shuo Acrobatic of copying the inventive choreographic elements of its show Gorgeous Girls - Diabolo in Zhang Shuo Acrobatic’s 2017 performance. Zhang Shuo denied infringement, claiming its show was inspired by traditional acrobatic acts currently belonging in public domain. The trial court ruled for China Acrobatic and ordered Zhang Shuo Acrobatic to cease the infringing performance. The defendant appealed the case to the Beijing Intellectual Property Court, which in turn upheld the lower court ruling.
Case docket no.: （2019）京73民终2823号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 2823, second instance (终), civil case (民), (2019) Beijing Intellectual Property Court (（2019）京73)
Jining Luohe Network Technology Co., Ltd. (济宁市罗盒网络科技有限公司) sued Guangzhou Wanyou Network Technology Co., Ltd. (广州市玩友网络科技有限公司) for infringing his software copyright. Luo Di developed the source code of an application called VirtualApp (VA) to be hosted on GitHub.com under the third version of the GNU General Public License (GPLV3). The GPL is a series of widely used free software licenses that guarantee end users the four freedoms to run, study, share, and modify the software. Luo Di stopped updating the code on GitHub.com in December 2017 and assigned the code to plaintiff Luohe Network which he was a shareholder of for commercial use. Defendant Guangzhou Wanyou developed some paid WeChat-compatible applications using Luo Di’s source code hosted on GitHub.com and didn’t disclose the source code of the applications to its users. The court found that Guangzhou Wanyou violated the GPL by abusing the free source code owned by Luohe Network and ordered it to pay 500,000 yuan ($79,000) in damages to the plaintiff.
Case docket no.:（2019）粤73知民初207号
Case docket no. transliteration: 207, first instance (初), civil case (民), intellectual property (知), (2019) Guangzhou Intellectual Property Court (（2019）粤73)
Shanghai Hantao Information Consulting Co., Ltd. (上海汉涛信息咨询有限公司) sued Qingdao Simple Payment Network Technology Co., Ltd. (青岛简易付网络技术有限公司) for unfair competition. Hantao Information maintained a website Dianping.com, which hosted consumer reviews of restaurants, similar to Yelp and TripAdvisor, and also offered group buying similar to Groupon. Simple Payment provided paid click farming services for restaurants listed on Dianping.com. Hantao Information accused Simple Payment of damaging its rating system and analytics mechanism and its goodwill with its brushing practices. The Qingdao Intermediate People’s Court ruled against the defendant and ordered it to pay 300,000 yuan ($46,000) in damages and costs.
Case docket no.: （2020）鲁02民初2265号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 2265, first instance (初), civil case (民), (2020) Qingdao Intermediate People’s Court (（2020）鲁02)
Yangpu District People’s Procuratorate of Shanghai municipality sued Liang Yongping (梁永平) and his 14 employees for infringing the copyrights on foreign shows. Liang Yongping established two companies to translate and subtitle foreign films and TV programs without authorization and operate a website called YYeTs.com (人人影视字幕组), where these translated works were released for viewing and downloading for free. 6.83 million users subscribed to the content pool of 32,824 translated films and TV programs made available on the website and other media outlets operated by Liang Yongping’s company. Liang Yongping and his employees generated 12 million yuan ($1.8 million) of subscription fees and advertising revenue from these infringing translated works. The Shanghai No. 3 Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Liang Yongping to 3.5 years in prison and a fine of 1.5 million yuan ($240,000). The Yangpu District People’s Court of Shanghai municipality sentenced Liang Yongping’s employees to terms in prison ranging from 1.5 years to three years suspended for probation and fines in varied amounts.
Case docket no.: （2021）沪03刑初101号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 101, second instance (终), criminal case (刑), (2021) Shanghai No. 3 Intermediate People’s Court (（2020）最高法)
Case docket no.: （2021）沪0110刑初826号
Case docket no. English transliteration is 826, second instance (终), criminal case (刑), (2021) Yangpu District People’s Court of Shanghai Municipality (（2021）最高法)
The full text is available here.