China’s Top Court Released the Top 10 IP Cases of 2023—Case Involving Copyright Infringement of Medical Equipment Software


The Supreme Peoples Court (SPC), Chinas top court, recently released the top 10 IP cases and 50 typical IP cases of 2023. Encompassing patents, trademarks, copyrights, new plant varieties, anti-unfair competition, and anti-monopoly, these cases span a wide spectrum of intellectual property categories. They delve into crucial realms and sectors of the modern era, including core technological innovation, renowned domestic and international brands, the digital economy, and the seed industry.

These cases can provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the Chinese IP landscape. In the upcoming weeks, China IP will publish the English version of the top 10 IP cases of 2023.

Case VII: Case Involving Copyright Infringement of Medical Equipment Software

Case Brief:

Since March 2019, the defendant Liu XX, without the permission of copyright owners including XX Medical Systems Co., Ltd., created dongles to bypass copyright protection measures taken by the copyright owners for profit. Liu XX also provided downloadable repair manuals and other unauthorized copies of software like the Nebula workstation and sold the dongles and pirated software through Xianyu platform and other channels.

Since July 2020, defendant Liu XX instructed defendant Liu YY to open a Xianyu account to sell the dongles and pirated software. Liu XX was responsible for making the dongles, copying the pirated software, listing the goods, and handling delivery. Liu YY managed customer service and payment collections. Their sales amounted to over 1.06 million yuan for Liu XX and over 140,000 yuan for Liu YY. 

After investigations it was found that the dongles sold by the two defendants could bypass copyright protection measures taken by the copyright owners and the pirated software they sold was essentially identical to the copyright owners original works.

The Shanghai No.3 Intermediate People's Court held that Liu XX and Liu YY copied and distributed their works to the public without permission for profit and deliberately bypassed the copyright protection measures.

The Court held that the two defendants actions constituted the crime of copyright infringement. Liu XX's case was deemed particularly serious, while Liu YY's case was serious. Liu XX was identified as the principal offender, and Liu YY as an accessory, meriting a lighter punishment.

Both defendants confessed, accepted their punishment, and prepaid fines before trial, which qualified them for leniency.

In the end, Liu XX was sentenced to three years and two months in prison and fined 700,000 RMB. Liu YY received a one-year prison sentence, suspended for one year, and was fined 80,000 RMB.

Neither defendant appealed.

Typical Significance:

This case is a typical criminal case addressing copyright infringement by deliberately bypassing technical measures, following the implementation of the Chinese Criminal Law Amendment. The judgment clarified the standards for criminal liability concerning the circumvention or destruction of technical measures, fully protecting the legitimate rights and interests of medical device software copyright holders. It also highlighted Chinas determination to enhance criminal judicial protection of intellectual property and promote the innovative development of the digital economy.