CNIPA Releases Draft Regulations for the Protection of Geographical Indication Products
On September 18, 2023, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) issued the Regulations on the Protection of Geographical Indication Products, opening a period for public comments until November 2, 2023.
The existing framework for protecting GI products in China includes the Provisions on the Protection of Geographical Indications Products (July 15, 2005) and the Measures on the Protection of Foreign Geographical Indications Products (March 28, 2016, amended on November 28, 2019). While these provisions apply to all GI products, the measures specifically establish rules for recognizing and registering foreign GI products. Both regulations primarily focus on the registration and administration processes for GIs and make references to other laws, such as the Product Quality Law or the Consumer Protection Law, for additional protection.
In response to the increasing need for specific legislation on GIs, the CNIPA published an initial draft on September 24, 2020, proposing detailed procedures for GI registration, opposition, and cancellation, as well as conferring limited enforcement powers to the CNIPA, such as the authority to issue warnings and fines of up to 30,000 yuan.
Recognizing the urgency for comprehensive laws, the new draft regulations aim to update the current framework and offer more detailed guidelines for the registration, usage, and protection of GI products. The CNIPA also disclosed its intention to issue separate rules concerning the examination, use of special signs, supervision, and administration of foreign GI products (Article 37).
Opposition and Cancellation Procedures
Article 17 outlines the opposition procedure against new GI product registrations, emphasizing transparency and fairness. The CNIPA will promptly notify the applicant upon receiving an opposition request and provide the relevant materials. The draft encourages dispute resolution through negotiation, and in cases of unresolved disputes, the CNIPA will convene an expert committee for adjudication.
Article 19 allows applicants to request a CNIPA review of decisions rejecting an application within 30 days of the decision notification. The CNIPA’s decision is expected within two months and can be appealed before the Beijing IP Court within six months.
Additionally, Article 30 introduces a cancellation procedure, allowing organizations or individuals to petition the CNIPA to revoke a registered GI product under certain conditions, such as becoming generic or deceptive. Decisions on cancellations are subject to appeal before the Beijing IP Court within six months.
The new draft introduces significant protection measures for GI products. While the 2020 draft granted limited enforcement powers to the CNIPA (a fine of 30,000 yuan), Article 33 empowers authorities to immediately halt illegal activities and seize illegal proceeds. Serious violations may result in fines up to five times the illegal gains, with a maximum fine of 100,000 yuan. For cases involving no proceeds or proceeds under 50,000 yuan, fines of 50,000 yuan may apply. The provision also specifies that if the seller of infringing products is unaware of the infringement but provides information about the supplier, the seller is exempt from fines, though the products should still be seized and destroyed.
Article 33(1)(4) explicitly prohibits the unauthorized use of a GI product name, even if the true origin of the product is disclosed. Additionally, GI product names cannot be registered as enterprise names (Article 38).
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