Digital intellectual property protection in China : Trends and damages in litigation involving the big five websites (2003-2013)

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-169
Journal / PublicationAsia Pacific Law Review
Issue number2
Online published29 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


After decades of breakneck economic growth and as its media environment continues to evolve, China’s notoriously cavalier approach to intellectual property rights (IPR) is also changing. In fact, it has recently become the most litigious country in the world when it comes to IPR protection in the digital domain. There is a wide range of interpretations on this topic given China’s political, economic and social complexities, but empirical evidence is lacking. This study aims to fill that gap by investigating 351 cases involving the country’s five biggest websites from 2003 to 2013. It analyses win rates and damages awarded based on the court records, as well as the factors that influenced the judgements. The data showed that, in that decade, the win rate was 24 per cent for websites being sued - but the rate jumped to 90 per cent for websites suing others. Plaintiffs were awarded a median 5,502 yuan in damages - representing a median 10 per cent of their claims. The average win rate fluctuated in the period, while the amount of median damages awarded decreased over time. More interesting, the data revealed the significant impacts of the situation of the litigants (the party capacity effect), the type of content in dispute (the medium effect) and the jurisdiction on the outcome of cases. This research adds an empirical footnote on the growing field of copyright on the Internet and sheds light on the general direction of digital IPR protection in China.

Research Area(s)

  • China, Damages, Intellectual property, Websites, Win rate