Supreme People's Court of China Issues Provisions on Adjudication of Internet Courts 

 

Following the launch of the country's first internet court in Hangzhou city in August 2017, China's second and third internet courts will start operation in Beijing and Guangzhou on 9 September and 28 September 2018 respectively. To standardise the Chinese internet courts' litigation procedures and facilitate their fair and effective adjudication of cases, the Supreme People's Court of China (SPC) has issued the Provisions of the Supreme People's Court on Adjudication of Internet Courts with reference to the experience of Hangzhou Internet Court.
 
The Provisions, effective on 7 September 2018, comprise 23 articles, which clearly set out the scope of jurisdiction and explain the adjudication approach of the Chinese internet courts. In terms of adjudication approach, the internet courts allow the whole or part of the litigation process from filing a complaint, acceptance of case, mediation, exchange of evidence, service of process, pre-trial preparation, hearing to publication of judgment to be conducted online through a litigation platform.
 
As regards scope of jurisdiction related to IP rights, the Provisions state that the internet courts may hear copyright-related cases, provided that the cases deal with disputes over ownership of rights to first publication of an internet work, or disputes over infringement of rights to distribution of an internet work and communication of information on networks. The Provisions also state that the internet courts may handle internet cases relating to ownership, infringement, and contract disputes over domain names.
 
For appeal cases involving disputes over internet copyright or domain name cases as mentioned above, the Provisions state that where the first instance is conducted at Beijing Internet Court, the appeal falls under the jurisdiction of Beijing Intellectual Property Court; where the first instance is conducted at Guangzhou Internet Court, the appeal falls under Guangzhou Intellectual Property Court; and where the first instance is conducted at Hangzhou Internet Court, the appeal should be made to Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court.
 
It is worth noting that in the Provisions, patent and trademark dispute cases are not included in the list of case types to be heard by the internet courts. Accordingly, patent and trademark related disputes are not within the jurisdiction of the Chinese internet courts under existing legal framework.