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As intangible property, patent right can be the object of property preservation in litigation. Article 87 of the Implementing Regulations of the Patent Law stipulates: If the people's court decides to take preservation measures for the patent application right or patent right in the trial of a civil case, the patent administration department under the State Council shall, upon receipt of the ruling indicating the application number or patent number and the The relevant procedures for suspending the preserved patent application right or patent right shall be suspended on the date of the notice of assistance in enforcement. At the expiration of the preservation period, if the people's court has not ruled to continue to take preservation measures, the patent administration department under the State Council shall resume the relevant procedures on its own.

Section 7.2 of Chapter 7 of Part V of the Guidelines for Patent Examination clearly stipulates that the patent invalidation procedure belongs to the above mentioned circumstances that should be suspended. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the suspension of invalidation procedure of patent right due to property preservation measures, whether the suspension includes the request for invalidation put forward by a third party unrelated to preservation behavior, and what should the applicant for invalidation do under this background.

1. Should the request for invalidation made by a third party unrelated to property preservation be included in the scope of suspension?

The purpose of establishing a property preservation system is to prevent the patentee from maliciously transferring, selling, squandering, concealing, or damaging his property, ensuring that the effective judgment made by the court in the future can be smoothly executed, truly protecting the legitimate rights and interests of the winning party, and solving the problem of "difficulty in execution". problem is of practical significance. Specific to the property preservation of patent right, it is mainly to avoid the patentee's malicious behavior of impairing property, which leads to the abandonment, termination, invalidity and other results of patent right, which leads to the unenforceable situation of patent right after the court makes the effective judgment and enters the execution stage, and damages the legitimate rights and interests of the winning party.

The invalidation request made by a third party unrelated to the property preservation act is a normal risk of property value changes, and does not belong to the malicious transfer, sale, squandering, concealment or damage of the property by the patentee. Because a patent is a special right and property, after the patent right is granted, anyone has the right to request for invalidation of the patent. The purpose is to make the patent that should not be granted the patent right invalid from the beginning, which belongs to the remedy procedure for the authorization defect. That is to say, it is legal to request invalidation of a patent itself, which is a common sense risk that exists after the patent is authorized. This risk is incidental from the date of authorization, and does not exist because of the request of invalidation claimant.

In order to ensure the realization of substantive justice, property preservation requires property payment and property with certain value. However, when a patent is requested for invalidation, its value may be legally and reasonably lost. Once the patent is declared invalid, its value will be destroyed, and the patent will no longer have the practical significance of being preserved. Even after being preserved and enforced, after the patent is attributed to others, the invalidation of the patent may result in impairment of the rights and interests of others, and does not actually protect the legitimate rights and interests of the parties. Therefore, from this point of view, the invalidation request made by a third party who has nothing to do with property preservation in the patent invalidation procedure should not be affected by the preservation.

In addition, Article 6 of the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that civil subjects engaged in civil activities should follow the principle of fairness and reasonably determine the rights and obligations of all parties. However, suspending the invalidation procedure after the property preservation of the patent is depriving the claimant of the right to request invalidation of the patent right according to the normal procedure, which violates the principle of fairness in civil law. In practice, the initiation of invalidation procedure is mostly based on the fact that the claimant for invalidation has a dispute with the patentee in another civil relationship. For example, the patentee sues the invalidation petitioner for infringing its patent rights, and the patentee uses its patent request to conduct administrative investigations against the invalidation petitioner's products, etc. In this case, the request for invalidation made by the claimant for invalidation belongs to a usual counter-attack method as the accused infringer in the infringement legal relationship, and belongs to the legitimate rights and interests protected by law that the claimant for invalidation should enjoy. However, after the patent procedure is suspended, the patentee still enjoys the right to use his patent to defend his rights, but the invalid procedure is ruled to be suspended, which makes the rights enjoyed by the patentee and the accused infringer unequal, obviously unfair.
To sum up, the author thinks that it is not in line with the legislative intent of establishing property preservation system to include the request for invalidation put forward by a third party unrelated to preservation behavior into the scope of suspension.

2. Protection and balance of the rights and interests of all parties after the patent is taken to preservation measures and a request for invalidation is filed

The property preservation system should have a mechanism to protect the rights and interests of the parties and achieve a balance between the rights and interests of all parties.

Although the Patent Law stipulates that anyone has the right to file a request for invalidation, the suspension of the invalidation procedure caused by the adoption of property preservation measures does not affect the rights and interests of all invalidation requesters to a certain extent. When the claimant for invalidation is a third party unrelated to property preservation, the suspension will have little impact on his rights and interests. However, when the claimant of invalidation belongs to the accused infringer in another legal relationship, the influence of the suspension of invalidation procedure on the claimant of invalidation cannot be ignored. Therefore, the author thinks that the infringer in the legal relationship of patent infringement should be given certain remedies to ensure that he can exercise his legitimate rights and interests smoothly. The subject enjoying the right of relief should be the party of the legal relationship of patent infringement disputes, and the party has not participated in the legal relationship of property preservation (hereinafter referred to as the subject of relief right).

In judicial practice, the CNIPA and the court belong to two different trial institutions. When taking property preservation measures for a patent, the court should first make a civil ruling on property preservation, and then issue a notice of assistance in enforcement to the State Intellectual Property Office. The State Intellectual Property Office shall carry out the property preservation of the patent, and make the processing of suspending the invalidation procedure. It can be seen that the court's ruling on property preservation itself will not affect the legitimate rights and interests of the person with the right to relief, because the person with the right to relief should not be a party involved in the legal relationship of property preservation; and, if the person with the right to relief is allowed to directly challenge the ruling, It will directly affect the legitimate rights and interests of the preservation applicant, be unfair to the preservation applicant, and make the legal relationship more complicated, which is not conducive to resolving disputes. Therefore, the right holder can only be given certain relief procedures from the procedure of property preservation implemented by the CNIPA. The author believes that the holder of the relief right should be given the right to object to the decision made by the CNIPA to suspend the invalidation procedure. When the holder of the relief right can prove that he is a party to the legal relationship of the patent infringement dispute, he should decide to restore the holder of the relief right. Hearing of the invalidation request filed. In order to prevent the remedy right holder and the patent holder from maliciously colluding to file a request for invalidation, the decision on resumption of trial shall be sent to the court. The applicant for preservation; if the preservation is made by the court itself, the decision to resume the trial shall be sent to the interested party; if the applicant for preservation or the interested party has any objection, the right of relief and the patentee shall be provided. Evidence of malicious collusion, otherwise it will not affect the resumption of the trial.

In addition, in the legal relationship of patent infringement disputes, whether the patent is valid is one of the main focuses of the dispute between the plaintiff and the defendant. The defendant often uses the request to declare the patent in question invalid as a means of litigation to make the infringement lawsuit enter a state of suspension for a long time, that is, when the patent right is a utility model or design patent, if the accused infringer is based on its claims during the defense period. Where a patent infringement dispute is requested to suspend the trial due to a request for invalidation, the court shall rule to suspend the trial. The suspension of the trial may be made at a discretion based on the consideration of doubts about the stability of the patent right and the possibility of the patent right being invalidated. If the patent involved is finally determined to be invalid, the trial of patent infringement disputes will be of no practical significance. That is, when the trial of the litigation case needs to be based on the trial of the patent confirmation case, the trial should be suspended to wait for the result of the invalidation trial, and then make appropriate judges. However, when a patent is taken property preservation measures and a request for invalidation is filed, the patent right may face two adverse consequences: First, the ownership of the patent right may be enforced due to preservation, resulting in the change of the ownership of the patent right, then, in the corresponding patent infringement dispute, the right holder will no longer have the subject qualification as a qualified party; Second, the patent right may be finally determined to be invalid through the invalidation request procedure. Among the above two possible adverse consequences, the impact on whether the patent infringement dispute should be suspended must be greater than the impact brought by the separate invalidation procedure. Therefore, the author believes that when a patent right is subject to both property preservation measures and a request for invalidation, it should at least be adjudicated to suspend the trial of the patent infringement dispute, and it should no longer be considered whether the patent is an invention patent or a utility model patent.

3. Conclusion

To sum up, the author believes that when a patent is subject to both property preservation measures and is in the process of invalidation, the rights of the invalidation petitioner not related to property preservation should be fully protected, and the invalidation petitioner should be allowed to declare invalidation. The procedure resumes trial, and the patent infringement dispute involved by the invalidation petitioner shall be suspended.

专利权被采取保全措施后专利无效宣告程序该何去何从
文/杜阳阳、覃岩岩

专利权作为无形财产,在诉讼中可以作为财产保全的对象。《专利法实施细则》第87条规定:人民法院在审理民事案件中裁定对专利申请权或者专利权采取保全措施的,国务院专利行政部门应当在收到写明申请号或者专利号的裁定书和协助执行通知书之日中止被保全的专利申请权或者专利权的有关程序。保全期限届满,人民法院没有裁定继续采取保全措施的,国务院专利行政部门自行恢复有关程序。
《专利审查指南》第五部分第七章第7.2节明确规定专利权无效宣告程序属于上述应当中止的情形。本文旨在讨论专利权因被采取财产保全措施致无效宣告程序中止,该中止是否包含与保全行为无关的第三人提出的无效宣告请求以及在此种背景下无效宣告请求人又当何去何从的问题。

一、与财产保全行为无关的第三人提出的无效宣告请求是否应当被纳入中止的范围?

设立财产保全制度的目的在于防止专利权人恶意转移、变卖、挥霍、隐匿、毁损其财产,保障将来法院作出的生效判决能够顺利执行,真正保护胜诉方当事人的合法权益,对破解“执行难”的问题具有现实意义。具体到专利权的财产保全,主要是为了避免专利权人恶意实施减损财产的行为,导致专利权出现放弃、终止、无效等结果,致使法院在作出生效裁判、进入执行阶段后出现无可执行专利权的情形,损害胜诉方当事人的合法权益。
与财产保全行为无关的第三人提出的无效宣告请求属于财产价值变化的正常风险,并不属于专利权人恶意转移、变卖、挥霍、隐匿、毁损财产的行为。因为专利作为一种特殊的权利和财产,专利权被授予后,任何人都有权对该专利提出无效宣告请求,目的在于让本不应授予专利权的专利归于自始无效,属于对授权瑕疵的弥补程序。即对一项专利提出无效宣告请求本身属于合法行为,是专利被授权后本身存在的符合常理的风险,该风险自授权之日起就附带,并不是因无效宣告请求人的提出而存在。
为确保实体正义的实现,财产保全要求具有财产给付内容,要求财产具有一定的价值。而当专利被提出无效宣告请求后,其价值就存在合法合理灭失的可能性,专利一旦被宣告无效后,其价值归于消灭,专利将不再具有被保全的现实意义。即便被保全并被执行后,专利归于他人后也可能因其被无效而造成他人的权益的减损,并没有实际上保障当事人的合法权益。因此,从这个角度考虑,专利无效程序与财产保全行为无关的第三人提出的无效宣告请求不应受到保全的影响。
此外,《民法典》第6条规定:民事主体从事民事活动,应当遵循公平原则,合理确定各方的权利和义务。而对专利进行财产保全后将无效程序中止,属于剥夺了与财产保全行为无关的无效宣告请求人的按照正常程序请求宣告专利权无效的权利,违背了民法中的公平原则。在实务中,无效宣告程序的启动大多数是基于无效宣告请求人在另外一个民事关系中与专利权人发生了纠纷,例如专利权人起诉无效宣告请求人侵犯了其专利权,专利权人利用其专利请求对无效宣告请求人的产品进行行政查处等,这种情况下,无效宣告请求人提出无效宣告请求属于其作为被诉侵权人在侵权法律关系中的一种惯用反击手段,属于无效宣告请求人应当享有的受法律保护的合法权益。然而专利程序被中止后,专利权人依然享有利用其专利维权的权利,无效程序却被裁定中止,这就使得专利权方和被诉侵权方享有的权利不对等,显失公平。
综上,笔者认为,将保全行为无关的第三人提出的无效宣告请求纳入中止的范围,不符合设立财产保全制度的立法本意。

二、专利被采取保全措施且被提出无效宣告请求后各方当事人权益的保障与平衡

财产保全制度应该具有保障当事人权益的机制,并在各方当事人权益之间实现一种平衡。
虽然《专利法》规定任何人均有权提出无效宣告请求,但采取财产保全措施导致的无效宣告程序中止并非对所有无效宣告请求人的权益发生一定程度的影响。当无效宣告请求人为与财产保全行为无关的第三人时,该中止行为对其权益的影响是微乎其微的;而当无效宣告请求人属于另一法律关系中的被诉侵权人时,无效程序的中止对无效宣告请求人的影响却是不可忽略的。因此,笔者认为应当赋予专利侵权法律关系中的侵权人一定的救济手段,以保障其顺利行使合法权益。享有该救济权的主体应当是专利侵权纠纷法律关系的当事人,且该当事人未参与到财产保全的法律关系当中(以下将该主体称为救济权人)。
在司法实践中,国家知识产权局与法院属于两个不同的审理机构,在对专利采取财产保全措施时,应当先由法院作出财产保全的民事裁定,然后向国知局发出协助执行通知书,由国家知识产权局实施专利的财产保全,作出中止无效宣告程序的处理。可见,法院作出财产保全的裁定本身不会影响到救济权人的合法权益,因为救济权人不应是参与到财产保全法律关系的当事人;并且,如果允许救济权人直接对该裁定提出异议,则会直接影响到保全申请人的合法权益,对保全申请人不公平,且使法律关系变得更为复杂,不利于解决纠纷。因此,只能从国家知识产权局实施财产保全这一程序中赋予救济权人一定的救济程序。笔者认为,应当赋予救济权人对国家知识产权局作出的中止无效宣告程序这一决定的异议权,当救济权人能够证明自己属于专利侵权纠纷法律关系的当事人,则应当决定恢复该救济权人所提出的无效宣告请求的审理。为了防止救济权人与专利权人恶意串通而提出无效宣告请求,应当将该恢复审理的决定送至法院,若保全是依一方当事人申请作出的,则由法院将该恢复审理的决定送达该保全申请人;若保全是由法院自行作出的,应将该恢复审理的决定送达具有利害关系的当事人;若保全申请人或该利害关系人有异议,则应当提供救济权人与专利权人恶意串通的证据,否则不影响恢复审理。
此外,在专利侵权纠纷法律关系中,专利是否有效系原被告双方争议的主要焦点之一。被告方常以请求宣告涉案专利无效作为诉讼手段而使侵权诉讼进入较长时间的中止状态,即当专利权为实用新型或外观设计专利时,若在答辩期内被诉侵权人基于其提出的无效宣告请求而申请专利侵权纠纷中止审理的,法院应当裁定中止审理。该中止审理可能是基于专利权的稳定性存在疑问的考量、专利权有被无效的可能等情形而裁量作出。如果涉案专利最终被认定为无效,则专利侵权纠纷的审理将无实际意义,即当诉讼案件的审理需要以专利确权案件的审理为依据时,应当先中止审理以等待无效审理的结果,再作出相应的裁判。然而当专利被采取财产保全措施且被提出无效宣告请求后,该专利权可能面临两种不利的后果:第一,专利权的归属可能因保全而被执行,导致专利权的归属发生变更,那么,在相应的专利侵权纠纷中权利人将不再具有适格当事人的主体资格;第二,专利权可能经无效宣告请求程序而最终被认定为无效。在可能存在的以上两种不利的后果中,其对专利侵权纠纷是否该中止审理的影响必定大于单独无效宣告程序带来的影响。因此,笔者认为,当一项专利权既被采取财产保全措施,又被提出无效宣告请求时,同样应当至少裁定专利侵权纠纷中止审理,而且不应再考虑该专利是发明专利还是实用新型专利。

三、结论

综上,笔者认为,当一项专利既被采取财产保全措施,又处于无效宣告程序中时,应充分维护与财产保全无关的无效宣告请求人的权利,应当允许该无效宣告请求人的无效宣告程序恢复审理,且该无效宣告请求人所涉及的专利侵权纠纷应当中止审理。