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As announced in an earlier update, the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) proposed amendments to its Examination Guidelines in early 2013. According to a public notice on SIPO's website (Chinese only), these amendments entered into force as of 15 October 2013.
Based on the revised sections of the Examination Guidelines, the examiner shall determine during the preliminary examination whether a utility model application lacks novelty, based on information relating to prior art or conflicting applications (Examination Guidelines, Part I, Chapter 2, Section 11). With respect to a design application, the examiner shall determine during the preliminary examination whether it meets the requirements of Article 23 of the Chinese patent law, meaning that there does not exist any prior design (Part I, Chapter 3, Section 8).
Furthermore, in the case of utility model and design applications, the examiner shall determine during the preliminary examination whether they meet the requirements of Article 9 of the Chinese patent law, namely that only one right can be granted for the same invention and that the right shall be granted to the applicant who files first. (Part I, Chapter 2, Section 13 and Part I, Chapter 3, Section 11).