New plan to protect IP rights online implemented

China
Official figures placed the number of internet users in China at 450 million at the end of November 2010, a 20% year-on-year increase. With the world’s largest online community, the Chinese government must constantly adjust its policies and out-innovate infringers to reduce illegal sales of fake goods. According to the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), the government’s plan to curb rampant sales of illicitly branded fake goods resulted in 2,742 cases handled, among which 98 were sent to judicial authorities. In addition, 1,198 illegal websites were shut down between 2005 and 2009.  

The government’s ongoing efforts to promote the respect of IP rights and limit infringement online have recently been outlined in a joint statement issued by SIPO and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

The government’s updated plan calls for strengthened cooperation between government agencies in locating and prosecuting online infringers. The new measures include:
  • added responsibility for internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor the content of websites hosted on their servers;
  • a mandated acceleration of response time for ISPs to shut down infringing websites; and
  • a thorough review of long-term sellers on large auction websites such as 'taobao.com' and 'alibaba.com'.
The new measures recently contributed to the firing of alibaba’s chief executive officer, David Wei, and chief operating officer, Elvis Lee, on the grounds that they were responsible for fraudulent activity and IP infringement by users of the auction channel.   
 
SIPO also unveiled a new 'citizen report' online channel which allows 'netizens' to submit anonymously the addresses of websites they suspect of infringement. This new service will be widely publicised on college campuses throughout the country in 2011. The plan hopes to promote the respect of IP rights, as well as create a platform for self-regulation online and significantly decrease the cost of monitoring. 
 
As China's online community continues to grow, the government faces an increasingly daunting challenge to monitor and deter IP infringement. The establishment of these new plans is an iterative step in SIPO’s long-term strategy. The innovations tested in this new plan should be carefully monitored to assess their potential use in other countries.
 
Aaron D Hurvitz and Alex Gapihan, Kangxin Partners PC, Beijing

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