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General Principles of the Civil Law Take Effects as of October 1, 2017

The General Principles of the Civil Law has been promulgated on March 15, 2017 by Decree No. 36 of the President of China and taken effects as of October 1, 2017. It replaces the previous legislation from 1987 as the current basis for governing civil activities.


The General Principles meet with the need of social development and the trend of economic change, and provide elaborations and additions in the areas such as, the protection of personal information, the manners of expressing meanings. It now covers more comprehensive aspects of civil activities.


So what are the changes in connection to intellectual properties?


First of all, the scope of intellectual property protection is refined, from copyrights, patents, trademarks, rights of discovery, etc. to eight categories constituting a wider range. The specific provisions are as follows:


    Article 123 the civil subjects shall enjoy intellectual property rights according to law.


    Intellectual property rights are the exclusive rights of the right holders on the following objects according to law:


    (1) works (copyrights);

    (2) inventions, utility models and designs;

    (3) trademarks;

    (4) geographical indications;

    (5) trade secrets;

    (6) integrated circuit layouts;

    (7) new varieties of plants;

    (8) other objects prescribed by law.


This change represents the scopes stipulated in the intellectual property rights laws and regulations and reflects the position of the Civil Law as the higher law.


Another change lies in the adjustment of statute of limitations: the new Civil Law has cancelled the provisions with the statute of limitations of one year, revised provisions with the statute of limitations of two years to three years. That is to say, a right holder of an intellectual property can bring a infringement lawsuit within three years from the date of infringement. The specific provisions are as follows:


    Article 188 the limitation of action regarding applications to a people's court for protection of civil rights shall be three years. Where otherwise stipulated by law, such provisions prevail.


     A limitation of action shall begin when the entitled person knows or should know that his rights have been violated. Where otherwise stipulated by law, such provisions prevail. However, the people's court shall not protect his rights if 20 years have passed since the infringement; under special circumstances, the people's court may extend the limitation of action.


On the whole, the new General Principles adapt to the latest demands of the society, and adjusts the rights and obligations between civil subjects for the purpose of safeguarding fairness and justice.

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