供應鏈上的專利保護與利益平衡︰專利間接侵權案例研究

Patent Protection and the Balance of Interests in Supply Chain: A Critical Analysis of Indirect Patent Infringement Cases

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date31 Jan 2020

Abstract

专利制度一般只保护专利产品或者依照专利方法获得的产品。在严格掌握“可专利性”标准的前提下, 要加强在供应链上的专利保护需要依赖于对侵权规则的灵活运用。如果不将工业品纳入专利保护范围, 就难以切断侵权产品生产的供应, 侵权人也会借工业品形式变相实施专利技术; 但如果将专利保护范围延伸至工业品领域, 又容易限制工业品企业的经营自由, 而且会妨碍对专利产品的使用与维护。

随着中国内地越来越频繁地参与全球经济活动, 大量内地企业长期从事着为国外新产品配套加工的工作, 关于将专利保护范围延伸至工业品领域的问题更是引发争议不断。相关争议中, 以关于专利间接侵权规则单独立法的争议最为典型。理论界长期将专利保护范围的延伸与产业安全对立起来, 认为延伸保护范围必然限制工业品贸易, 会牺牲绝大部分加工企业的利益, 影响产业安全, 甚至认为这是发达国家意图强加的义务, 应当予以抵制。这种敌意由来已久且影响了相关的制度探索乃至于司法解释的规定。但经考察2000年—2018年间80份关于专利间接侵权的判决文书, 通过对影响侵权成立的因素进行实证分析后发现, 在此类发生在专利权人与工业品企业之间的侵权纠纷中, 内地法院特别重视工业品用途与专利技术方案之间的联系。通过分析工业品的专用性并适用归责原则, 法院实际上已经将对产品专利或方法专利的保护范围延伸到了供应链上的工业品。这说明在具备专用性要件的前提下, 对专利权的保护可以突破专利授权范围的限制。这一发现与中国内地在专利法修改过程中针对专利间接侵权规则所表现出来的排斥态度相左, 也区别于认为专利间接侵权行为是一种特殊共同侵权行为的主流理论观点。反对观点还提出单独立法规定专利间接侵权规则会超越TRIPS协定最低保护水平的理由, 这又涉及全球供应链上因为知识产权保护在发达成员与发展中成员之间所引发的利益冲突与平衡问题。

随着知识产权与国际投资贸易之间的联系越来越紧密, 加入世界贸易组织以来规制专利间接侵权行为的案例也证明了中国内地作为发展中成员并非完全排斥专利保护范围在工业品领域的扩张, 通过法治手段激励创新同样也是中国内地处理供应链上纵向竞争问题时的选择。专利间接侵权规则作为激励创新投入的进一步措施, 有利于促进与工业品相关的技术交易且优化要素资源配置, 具有经济上的正当性, 对于正从传统加工产业向创新服务产业转型的中国内地而言意义重大。而司法解释的规定并没有给出令人满意的答案。专利间接侵权规则绝非是对国外制度的盲目移植。这一“舶来品”早已在中国内地的司法实践中扎根且成为中国经验的一部分。这样的实践源于内部、外部各种环境因素变化的影响, 与“竞合侵权行为”等侵权法理论的新发展相呼应, 印证了制度变迁的规律。继续保持对专利间接侵权规则的敌意实际上可能妨碍国家“创新驱动发展”战略的实施。这种敌意既不符合TRIPS协定的目标, 影响发展中成员吸引国外资金和技术, 也不利于转型后的内地企业走出国门开展对外投资与贸易。上述发现可以更好地帮助人们认识中国内地法院在经济发展和转型过程中的角色以及为保护创新所作的努力, 并解释处理供应链上纵向竞争问题的平衡机制, 也是对现有制度规定的检讨与反思。
Traditional patent system only protects patented products or products obtained by patented methods. If we strictly follow the "patentability" standard, it is necessary to rely on flexible application of infringement rules in order to strengthen innovation protection in supply chain. If industrial products are excluded from patent protection, it is difficult to cut off the supply chain of infringement production, and the infringer may also use the patented technology in the form of industrial products. However, if the protection extended to industrial products, it would largely restrict business freedom of industrial enterprises, and even brings inconvenience to the use of patented products.

Along with increasing participation of Chinese companies in global economic activities, considerable number of them have engaged in processing foreign patented products for a long time, which aggravates controversial debates on whether extending patent protection to industrial products in the supply chain. Among them, indirect infringement of patent right is the most typical one during legislative discussion. Chinese academia has always been opposing the extension of patent protection for the guarantee of industrial safety. They believe that extending patent protection would inevitably restrict the trade freedom of industrial products, sacrifice interests of most processing companies, and affect domestic industrial safety. They even take it as an intended obligation imposed by developed countries and so should be resolutely resisted. This kind of hostility existed for a long time which largely affects the development of relevant system and provisions of judicial interpretations. However, through quantitative and qualitative analysis of 80 written judgments of the indirect infringement during 2000-2018, the author found that courts in mainland China paid considerable attention to specificity characteristics between industrial products and patent technology solutions in deciding whether there is patent infringement imposed by industrial companies. By analyzing specificity characteristics and combining with the application of liability principle, Chinese courts have in fact extended the protection of patented product or method to industrial products in the supply chain. This shows that the protection of patent can break through the limitation of the scope of patent authorization provided with elements of specificity characteristics. This finding is in contrary to scholars’ rejective attitude towards indirect infringement rules in the process of Patent Law revision, and is also different from the mainstream theory that takes indirect infringement as a special joint infringement. The argument against the indirect infringement rule also argues that separate legislation goes beyond the minimum protection level of the TRIPS agreement, which involves the balance of interests arising from the protection of intellectual property rights in the global supply chain between developed and developing countries.

Along with the growing connection between intellectual property (IP) protection and international investment and trade, indirect infringement cases adjudicated by Chinese courts ever since the entry of WTO also proves that China, as member of developing countries, does not completely reject appropriate extension of patent protection for industrial products. Stimulating innovation by rule of law is Chinese choice when dealing with vertical competition in supply chain. As a measure to further incentivize innovation and invention, the indirect infringement rule is conducive to promoting technology trading in the supply chain and optimizing resource allocation, which is justifiable economically. It is of great significance to mainland China, who is transforming and upgrading from traditional processing industry to innovative service industry. Yet the judicial interpretations have not provided satisfactory answers on this issue. Indirect infringement rules are not blind transplantation of foreign legal systems. This "foreign product" has already taken root in the judicial practice in mainland China and become part of Chinese judicial experience. Such innovation in judicial practice originates from the influence of various internal and external environmental factors, and echoes the new development of tort law theories such as "concomitant infringement", which also confirms the theory of institutional change. Continued hostility towards indirect infringement rules may actually hamper the implementation of the country's "innovation-driven development" strategy. It is not in line with TRIPS objective, and neither is it conducive to attracting foreign capital and advanced technology for developing members, nor is it conducive to the overseas investment and trade of mainland companies during transition period. The above findings help people better understand the efforts made by the courts in mainland China to protect innovation in the process of economic development and transformation, and offers some critical reflection of relevant regulations therein.

    Research areas

  • Vertical Competition, Indirect Patent Infringement, Specificity Characteristics, Balance of Interests