On 9 August and 28 September 2018, the new Cyberspace Courts in Beijing and Guangzhou were officially opened. These new specialised courts, along with their equivalent one that was formed in Hangzhou in August 2017, are meant to tackle the quickly swelling stream of internet-related court procedures in China. The establishment of these specialised courts is an encouraging step for the Chinese internet sector as well as for IP owners: it promises a more flexible procedure, less bureaucracy in obtaining evidence and higher quality judgments, handed down by specialist judges.
The establishment of the two new cyberspace courts fits in with the government’s policy of encouraging and regulating China’s burgeoning e-commerce sector, and comes in the wake of the promulgation of China’s first E-Commerce Law, which will soon enter into force.
The rules on the operation of the Cyberspace Courts are enshrined in the Supreme People’s Court’s Provisions on Several Issues Concerning the Trial of Cases by the Cyberspace Courts, issued on 7 September 2018.
As to territorial jurisdiction, the cyberspace courts have cross-regional jurisdiction over all ‘cyberspace cases’ (see categories below) that have a “genuine connection” (e.g. location of contract, location of damage etc.) with respectively Beijing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou.
As to material jurisdiction, the cyberspace courts will handle a broad variety of cases mainly including:
- E-commerce disputes (including purchase contract disputes, product liability disputes, service contract disputes)
- Online copyright disputes (including the unlawful dissemination of films, music and other copyrighted works);
- Online defamation disputes;
- Domain name disputes; and
- Online loan contract disputes.
- The Higher People’s Courts have the power to further broaden these categories for the cyberspace courts within their jurisdiction.
The cyberspace courts act as Basic People’s Courts. This means that appeals against judgments from the Cyberspace Courts can be brought before the IP Courts, for IP cases such as copyright infringements, or before the Intermediate People’s Courts, for all other cases.
“…the Cyberspace Courts will make use of blockchain technology”
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