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Abstract

In the past decade, Chinese courts began to recognize joint patent owners’ rights and obligations that are distinguishable from other proprietary property rights, but the law did not reflect these concerns. It was not until the Third Revision of the Chinese Patent Act in 2009 that the law recognized the existence of joint-ownership rights in patents. Part of the reason for this change was not only to conform to the standards of the international intellectual property community, but also to promote the commercialization of patented inventions and technology transfer. Article 15 of the Patent Act was added to allow joint-owners to use their invention independently and to grant non-exclusive licenses to third parties without the other joint-owners’ consent, but only in the absence of an agreement among the joint owners to the contrary. All other acts require the consent of joint owners. Although this provision is a step forward in the positive direction for Chinese patent law, this article points out that there are still many lingering questions regarding the rights of joint-owners, and more issues are certain to arise as this new provision is applied in practice.

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