Apply for a patent in China

The Chinese patent authority is the National Intellectual Property Administration of the P.R.C (CNIPA). Three forms of protection are available: invention patents, utility model patents, and design patents.

  • The invention patent corresponds to the national Finnish patent. Its novelty and inventive step are examined, and it has a term of 20 years.
  • The utility model patent mainly corresponds to the Finnish utility model. It has a term of 10 years, and its inventive step is not assessed before the grant. Unlike in Finland, CNIPA selectively examines and, if necessary, may reject a utility model patent application due to lack of novelty.
  • The design patent corresponds to our design right. However, CNIPA does not examine design applications’ novelty. The design patent has a term of 10 years.

If you make an invention in the Chinese territory and want to apply for a patent, you have to file your first application with CNIPA, or you have to ask CNIPA for a national security review and permission to file your first application outside China. Inventions contrary to the laws cannot be patented in China. Other items that cannot be patented are mainly the same as in Finland. There is more information in Finnish in our manual: Patenttikasikirja_2017.pdf (pdf, 2.49 Mb) (item E.2).

Chinese patent agent

To be able to apply for a patent at CNIPA, foreign applicants must appoint a Chinese patent agent. If you have a residential or business address in China, this is not compulsory, but still highly recommended. Applications to CNIPA must be translated into Chinese. A PCT application may be in English, but a translation is required later on.You should take advantage of our PPH agreements to fast-track the procedure, if the priority application preceding your application to CNIPA has already been allowed by the PRH.

Appeals against SIPO decisions

If CNIPA rejects your application, you can appeal to the CNIPA Patent Reexamination Board (PRB). Requests for the invalidation of any granted patent are also filed with the PRB. There is no ‘opposition period’ in the Chinese patent system. Therefore, you can sue for the invalidation of a patent at any time after the grant. An appeal against the decision of the Patent Reexamination Board can be registered with the Beijing IP Court or the High People’s Court.

Patent disputes

Patent disputes are settled either in a court hearing or by an administrative process. The court venue is determined by the defendant's domicile or the place of infringement. If you choose the administrative route, it is the local IP office that decides on the dispute. This practice is quicker than court proceedings, but no damages are awarded.

You can appeal against the decision of an administrative process to a court. If you want to bring an infringement action directly to court, the first instance is normally the local Intermediate People’s Court. You can appeal against their decision to the High People’s Court. Significant cases can be directly taken to the High People’s Court, whose decisions you can appeal against to the Supreme Court if leave to appeal is granted to you.

The time limit for appealing is normally very short, so it is good to prepare yourself for this in advance. As in Finland, there is no “case law" practice in the Chinese system. Decisions of the Supreme Court are thus precedents, but not directly binding for procedures at CNIPA.


New court instances in 2015

At the end of 2014, three courts specialized in IPR cases were set up in China: in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The aim is to improve the quality of trials and to shorten the processing times. These IP courts deal with all disputes over patents, utility models and design rights in their region. They will also act as courts of appeal in trademark and copyright disputes that have already been handled by local courts.

Further information

CNIPA website in English
Liguo Zhang: Introduction to Intellectual Property Protection in China (pdf, 0.66 Mb)

Printable version
Latest update 05.09.2018