Patents (China) [Q34]
1. Q: What types of patents are provided under the current Chinese Patent Law?

Three types of patents are provided under the current Chinese Patent Law, namely, patents for invention, patents for utility model, and patents for design.

According to the Chinese Patent Law,
“invention” means any new technical solution relating to a product, a process, or improvement thereof;
“utility model” means any new technical solution relating to the shape, the structure, or their combination, of a product, which is fit for practical use;
“design” means any new design of the shape, the pattern or their combination, or the combination of the color with shape or pattern, of a product, which creates an aesthetic feeling and is fit for industrial application.

It shows from the above that invention-creations in the context of the Patent Law have their extent of protection specifically defined.

For instance, patents for invention and patents for utility model merely protect invention-creations in the technical field, i.e., the protection is limited to technical solutions only. Scientific theories, teaching methods, computing methods, and man-made rules etc. are outside the scope of patentability.

According to the current Chinese patent system, patents for invention are categorized as product patents and process patents.

Product patents refer to those invention-creations which are produced via a manufacturing process and occupy three-dimensional space, e.g. inventions relating to devices, equipment, instruments and components thereof, new materials, and new substances.

Process patents refer to those invention-creations the production of which is characterized by a time sequence, such as the production and processing technology of a product, the testing of materials, lab test method, and the manner of applying a product.

The protection of patents for utility model does not extend to process inventions, and is confined to certain product inventions only, i.e. products having specific shapes or structures.

Patents for design protect the outlook features of products. Said outlook features are embodied through a product, and the product incorporating the outlook features should be capable of being manufactured and reproduced according to industrial methods. The outlook features can be the form of the main body of the product, or the pattern, color, or their combination of the product, which creates an aesthetic feeling. Patterns or graphic designs independent of a specific product are unpatentable under the Chinese Patent Law.   

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