On April 10, 2023, China’s National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) issued the Notice of the State Intellectual Property Office on Further Carrying Out the “Blue Sky” Special Rectification Action of the Intellectual Property Agency Industry (国家知识产权局关于进一步深入开展知识产权代理行业“蓝天”专项整治行动的通知). The Notice states that CNIPA will continue its Blue Sky rectification program by cracking down on both trademark and patent agencies that violate laws and regulations. Similar Notices were issued in January 2022 and March 2021. Under the Blue Sky campaign CNIPA has been regularly punishing patent and trademark agencies by, for example, issuing fines in 2021 for unqualified patent agency behavior totaling more than 12 million RMB (~$1.9 million USD), the highest of which was 1.04 million RMB.
Some of the highlights of this year’s Notice include:
Severely crack down on violations of laws and regulations of prominent trademark agencies. All regions shall, in accordance with the requirements of the Regulations on the Supervision and Administration of Trademark Agents, take the preemptive registration and hoarding of hot words as trademarks by agents, collusion with the staff members engaging in trademark registration and management, violations of laws and regulations in the process of engaging in cross-border e-commerce agency business and trademark agency business through the Internet, counterfeiting the names of state organs and the staff members of state organs, forging and altering legal documents, seals and signatures, accepting the authorization of both parties in a conflict of interest in the same trademark agency and other violations of laws and regulations as the key rectification targets in 2023, and effectively intensify the crackdown together with the relevant departments. if the circumstances are serious, the case shall be reported to the CNIPA for handling in a timely manner; if the case is suspected of a crime, the case shall be transferred to the relevant department for investigation of criminal liabilities according to law.
Continue to rectify abnormal patent application agency behavior. The CNIPA continues to notify all regions of abnormal patent applications and agency information, and strengthen positive guidance for further standardizing patent agency behavior. All localities should fully perform their supervisory duties in the territory where the agency behavior occurs, increase the investigation and punishment of abnormal patent application agency behavior in accordance with laws and regulations, increase cross-regional joint supervision, and actively cooperate and support other provinces’ requests for assisted investigation. Serious or obviously malicious cases such as repeated representation, resubmission after withdrawal, and foreign-related abnormal patent applications shall be dealt with severely according to law; particularly serious cases with greater social impact shall be reported to the CNIPA for processing in a timely manner.
Continue to crack down on unqualified patent agency behavior. The CNIPA continues to strengthen the analysis of patent data, regularly screens clues to unqualified patent agency behavior and forwards them to various regions for investigation and punishment. In the process of case investigation, all localities should pay attention to the applicant as a key nexus, timely collect and retrieve key evidence materials such as agency contracts and transaction information, and prevent unqualified agents transferring and destroying of evidence by deceiving, threatening, or inducing applicants. Illegal gains shall be strictly determined in accordance with relevant regulations, and behaviors such as acting as an agent for abnormal applications and refusing to cooperate with investigations shall be regarded as severe punishment circumstances and given high multiples or maximum fines in accordance with laws and regulations. For agencies that rent out or lend qualifications, “double penalties” will be strictly implemented.
The CNIPA will establish a credit evaluation management mechanism for patent agencies across the country, and publicize the credit evaluation results.
The full text of the Notice is available here (Chinese only).