The Role of Precedents in Patent Granting Procedure
Unlike common law system that belongs to case law, China’s legal system is continental law system, subject to the “statute law”. In the patent granting procedure, only the Patent Law, the Implementing Regulations of the Patent Law and the Guidelines for Patent Examination shall have legal effect in principle. However, judging from our practical experience, the understanding of the same provision may vary depending on different examiners. Examiners are inclined to follow the previous examination practice in dealing with issues that are significantly influenced by subjective judgment. In view of this, proper application of precedents (including reexamination decisions, invalidation decisions and court judgments, etc.) can achieve twice the result with half the effort. On the other hand, some examiners do not like the fact that the applicant cites precedents, and will think that the applicant is pressuring them with irrelevant cases. Thus, citation of precedents does not necessarily produce good inner conviction for all examiners, but sometimes has a negative effect. In practice, patent agents need to consider corresponding strategies based on the comprehensive situation of a case.