Hepeng Jia and Yue Yuan/Beijing, China
In an effort to boost the quality of patent applications, and encourage Chinese firms to obtain international patents, China has revised its patent law.
The amendment, passed by the standing committee of the National People's Congress on 27 December 2008, will take effect on 1 October 2009. It is intended to encourage independent innovation, said Chen Guangjun, director of the standing committee's science and technology office.
Former patent law revisions in 1992 and 2000 were introduced to enable China to absorb foreign technologies and to abide by international rules.
The new law adopts an international 'absolute standard for novelty' principle for patent authorisation rather than the 'relative novelty' which was previously stipulated. A patent can be approved under relative novelty if the invention or technology is new in China. But with the new 'absolute' principle, a Chinese patent can only be given to an invention or technology that is totally novel worldwide.
Meanwhile, the law now encourages Chinese citizens to obtain international patents by removing the requirement for them to apply first for a Chinese patent. Cao Man, president of new energy company Qingdao Tianren Environmental Technology, predicts that the higher patent standard will drive innovation in low carbon technologies in the long term but will have very limited short-term impact. 'We are still catching up with foreign technologies and most players in the field do not have enough innovative technologies that are ready to be patented,' Cao told Chemistry World.
And because of the high cost of applying for foreign patents, innovators have to consider multiple factors such as the market prospects in other countries before they decide to apply abroad, said Lin Xiaodong, director of Peking University Health Centre's patent management office.
Besides the above amendments, the new law revision also strengthens China's compulsory patent licensing, such as for HIV/AIDS drugs in times of a public health crisis.