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FAQ - China

If you cannot find your question here, please send it to us using the contact form.

For more specific legal questions relating to the Chinese patent system, please contact International_legal_affairs@epo.org.

Questions

General information about patents in China

From filing to grant

After grant

Sources of information

Answers

General information about patents in China


What types of industrial property rights exist in China?

In China, industrial property rights include invention patents, utility model patents, design patents and trade marks.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


How long are the terms of protection of Chinese invention patents and utility model patents?

The term for invention patents in China is 20 years from the filing date. The term for utility model patents is 10 years from the filing date.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


What inventions cannot be patented in China?

According to Articles 5 and 25 of the Chinese Patent Law, the following items are not patentable in China:

  • any invention-creation that is contrary to the law or social morality or that is detrimental to public interest
  • invention-creations relying on genetic resources of which the acquisition or use is not consistent with the provisions of the laws and regulations
  • scientific discoveries
  • rules and methods for mental activities
  • methods for the diagnosis or treatment of diseases
  • animal and plant varieties
  • substances obtained by means of nuclear transformation
  • two-dimensional designs of images or colours or combinations of the two that mainly serve as indicators

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can computer software be patented in China?

Computer programs as such cannot be patented, but they may be protected under the Regulations on Computers Software Protection, formulated in accordance with the Copyright Law. An invention containing a computer program may be patentable if the combination of software and hardware as a whole can actually improve the prior art, bring about technical results and constitute a complete technical solution.

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What is the difference between "service" and "non-service" inventions in China?

In China, a service invention is an invention made by an employee of a company in the performance of his duties. In such cases, the right to apply for a patent belongs to the company, which will also be the patent holder after grant. Non-service inventions are those made by individual inventors.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Is China a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)?

Yes. China became a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) contracting state on 1 January 1994. Since then it has been possible to designate China in international patent applications filed via the PCT route.

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From filing to grant


As a foreign applicant, do I need to appoint a professional representative in China?

Yes. If a foreign applicant, enterprise or organisation does not have a residential or business address in China, they must appoint a legally established patent agent to represent them in the patent prosecution procedure in China.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.

What language must I use for a patent application in China?

Any document submitted under the Chinese Patent Law and its Implementing Regulations must be in Chinese. Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications can be filed in either Chinese or English. However, you must submit a Chinese translation of the application within 30 months of the priority date (extendible to 32 months subject to payment of a surcharge).

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I claim priority for an application filed in China?

Yes. The priority term is 12 months from the earliest claimed priority. Multiple priorities are possible. Domestic priorities can be claimed within 12 months from the date of first filing in China. If a later application claiming domestic priority is filed, the earlier application is deemed to have been withdrawn.

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What do I need to do to get an early filing date in China?

It is not possible at present to file a provisional application in order to get an early filing date in China.

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Does China allow divisional applications?

Yes. Where an application contains two or more inventions, applicants may submit a divisional application on their own initiative or in accordance with an office action from an examiner. Divisional applications must be submitted on the basis of the initial application, no later than two months from the date of receipt of the notification of grant.

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Are Chinese invention patents and utility model patents subject to substantive examination?

Applications for patents for invention are subject to substantive examination (novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability). Utility model applications undergo a formal examination only. However, in infringement disputes relating to utility model patents, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) will on request examine conformity with the relevant provisions and produce an evaluation report.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


How soon after filing an application in China do I need to file a request for examination?

You must submit a request for examination within three years of the filing date or, if priority is claimed, within three years of the priority date. If no request is filed within this time limit, the application is deemed to be withdrawn.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I request that my application be published earlier than 18 months from the filing date in China?

Yes, you can. The State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) will conduct a preliminary examination and publish the application immediately afterwards (provided it is not rejected).

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I withdraw my application before it is published in China?

Yes, you can withdraw your application at any time before grant. Where the request for withdrawal is submitted after the preparations for publication have been completed, the document will be published as scheduled, and the withdrawal will be published in the next issue of the patent gazette.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I submit third-party observations on a Chinese patent application?

Yes. China has a similar third-party observations system to that of the European Patent Convention (EPC). Any person may submit observations on the lack of conformity of an application with the provisions of the patent law to the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO). This can be done at any time from the date of publication of the application to the announcement of the decision to grant.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I submit a request for a time limit extension with the Chinese Patent Office?

Yes, you can request extensions of time limits specified by examiners at the Chinese Patent Office if you are unable to perform a certain act or procedure within the time limit concerned. You must explain the reasons why you are asking for an extension and pay a fee. However, there are certain time limits which may not be extended.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


What is the time limit for responding to official actions in China?

In the substantive examination procedure, the time limit for responding to the first office action is four months. The usual time limit specified by examiners in their various notifications is two months. For less complicated actions, a period of one month or less may apply. The time limit is calculated from the date on which the party concerned is presumed to have received the notification.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I apply for an invention patent and a utility model at the same time in China?

Yes, it is possible to file invention and utility model applications in parallel to obtain early protection in China. The applications must be filed by the same applicant, on the same day. They must relate to the same invention, and the fact that both applications were filed must be stated. Upon notification of grant of the patent, the utility model must be abandoned.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can Chinese utility model patents be converted into invention patents?

Utility models cannot be converted into invention patents in China. However, the dual filing of applications for invention patents and utility models is possible to obtain early protection. Upon notification of grant of the patent, the utility model must be abandoned.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


After grant


When do I have to pay annual fees in China?

The annual fee for the year in which the patent is granted must be paid at registration. Subsequent annual fees are payable yearly in advance.

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Is there a grace period for paying annual fees in China?

If you miss the deadline for payment of the annual fees, there is a six-month grace period. If you do not pay them (plus surcharge) within this period, the patent lapses.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can a lapsed patent be restored in China?

In China you can request restoration of a patent within two months from the date of receipt of the notification of lapse. You must give reasons for your request and pay a restoration fee. Under certain conditions of force majeure, restoration may be requested up to two years from the date of expiry of the time limit for payment.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I request an extension of the patent term in China?

No. In China the 20-year term for invention patents cannot be extended. The Chinese Patent Law does not include any provisions on patent term extensions or supplementary protection certificates (SPCs).

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


How can I challenge a granted patent in China?

The opposition system was abolished in China in 2001. The only way to a challenge a granted patent is through the invalidation procedure. Requests for invalidation can be filed at any time, even after the patent has expired.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Sources of information


Where can I search Chinese patents in English?

The English website of the State Intellectual Property Office of China offers a free search engine for Chinese patent information.

State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO)

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Where can I find English abstracts of Chinese patent documents?

You can find English abstracts of Chinese invention patents (manually translated) on the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) website.

The EPO's Espacenet database includes English abstracts of Chinese invention patents and utility models (also manually translated).

State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO)

Espacenet

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Where can I get an English machine translation of a Chinese patent or utility model document?

The Chinese Patent Office (SIPO) launched two online Chinese-to-English machine translation tools in April 2008.  SIPO's machine translation engine is free of charge and can be accessed via their website.

The other engine, which was accessible via the C-Pat Search database hosted by SIPO's Intellectual Property Publishing House (IPPH), is now part of a fee-based service.

State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO)

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Where can I find legal-status information on Chinese patents in English?

You can find English legal status information on Chinese invention patents free of charge in the EPO's Espacenet database.

Espacenet

Note: There is a time delay of three months for legal status information in English in Espacenet. You should therefore cross-check your results with the corresponding information in Chinese. You can find a step-by-step guide on how to do a legal status search in Chinese on our website.

Searching in databases - China

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Where can I find official information about patent fees in China?

You can find official information about patent fees (currently in Chinese only) on the State Intellectual Property Office of China's (SIPO) website. A step-by-step guide on how to search this information is available on our website.

Searching in databases - China

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I access the documents in the file of a Chinese patent application?

Yes. Public online file inspection was introduced in April 2012, via SIPO's "China Patent Inquiry System". The system covers Chinese patent, utility model and design applications filed on or after 10 February 2010, and is updated weekly.

You can retrieve bibliographic data, application information, corrections, SIPO actions, decisions and other documents on file. Post-grant information is not included, however. The documents are provided in PDF.

The system is available in Chinese only. A step-by-step guide on how to access the files is available on our website.

China Patent Inquiry System

Searching in databases - China

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Where can I find information about patent agents in China?

The website of the All-China Patent Agents Association (ACPAA) contains a list in English of the names and addresses of Chinese patent agents.

A worldwide directory of patent agents, which can be searched by country, can be found on the Pipers Patent Attorneys website.

All-China Patent Agents Association (ACPAA)

Pipers Patent Attorneys website

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Where can I find information about patents in Macao?

You can find information about patents in Macao on the Macao Special Administrative Region Economic Service website

Macao Special Administrative Region Economic Service

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Where can I find information about patents in Hong Kong?

You can find information about patents in Hong Kong on the website of the Intellectual Property Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

Intellectual Property Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


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