Ten Model Cases Released by the Supreme People’s Court on the Equal Protection of the Personal and Property Safety of Private Entrepreneurs (Mainland China)

Jolene Chen

On May 16, 2019, the Supreme People’s Court released ten model cases regarding the equal protection of the personal and property safety of private entrepreneurs (the “Cases”).  The Cases primarily cover the following three aspects:  

1. The Cases contain several decisions acquitting the founders, chairmen, legal representatives and factory managers of several private enterprises and reflect the spirit of law in the people’s courts through the use of facts as the basis and the law as the determinant factor, as well as highlight the state’s position to provide effective judicial protection of private enterprises. 

The Cases selected this time contain several cases where the defendants were acquitted or had their convictions overturned.  For example, in the case where Wenzhong Zhang was first found guilty of fraud, bribery of an organization, and embezzlement of public funds but acquitted upon retrial because the accused did not engage in fraud through fabrication of facts or concealment of the truth to, nor was there subjective intent of illegal possession, thus the elements for the offense of fraud are not satisfied.  In addition, it was determined that since the payment of benefits or a requested sum was not for the purpose of pursuing illegitimate benefits, nor was it a material offense, there is no basis to pursue criminal liability for bribery.  In the original decision, Zhang’s use of funds was for personal use, but the facts did not clearly support that, so the evidence was insufficient.  The new decision to acquit the defendant demonstrates the state’s position to protect the property rights of private enterprises and is particularly significant in creating a judicial environment where private entrepreneurs can have the peace of mind in creating their businesses. 

2. The Cases also include decisions where multiple charges were dropped to specifically indicate that the judiciary should adhere to the boundary between guilt and innocence and enhance the personal and property protection of private entrepreneurs. 

For example, one of the Cases selected this time involves the acquittal of a Shanghai company named Vivian Jewelry Co. and Weiwei Wu over an illegal conversion of public funds charge.  The court held that the borrowing method did not involve public promotions, and the people whom the loans were requested from were relatively restricted in scope; in addition, real estate and jewelry were provided as collateral to secure the loans.  Therefore, the elements of the offense were not met, and the matter is properly a civil dispute over loans.  The reiteration of the elements of public fund conversion is meaningful in preventing overreach of criminal justice in interfering with the operation of private enterprises.  

3. There are also decisions involving a breach of big data protection and a name trademark infringement which provide guidance for courts in such field. 

In the case involving Taobao Software Co., Ltd. suing Anhui Meijing Information Technology Co., Ltd. over a unfair competition dispute, the court found that since Taobao’s collection and use of network user information could not possibly allow it to identify any natural person independently or in combination with other information, and the collection and use also fell within the scope declared under the Taobao Privacy Policy, Taobao’s collection and use of user and subscriber information were justified.  Further, given that such data is the result of a large amount of intellectual labor from the network operator and systematically organized through in-depth development, the defendant’s direct use of the data product for commercial gains without a license or any new creative labor is an act of unfair competition.  Therefore, the court ruled that the defendant should desist from the infringement and pay damages.  This is the first case involving a new type of unfair competition with respect to the protection of rights and interests associated with big data products, and this court decision has positive significance for the creation of a fair and orderly competitive environment for the development of the big data industry. In addition, in the case involving Ciqikou Chen Mahua Food Co., Ltd. and the Jiulongpo branch of Xihuoge Food Culture Co., Ltd. over trademark infringement and unfair competition, the court strictly set down the boundary between justified use of a natural person’s name and infringing use of a name trademark in commercial activities, refined the adjudication rules for name trademark infringement, and effectively curbed unfair competition through free-riding on the goodwill of others.  Therefore, this case is of exemplary significance in protecting the rights of enterprises seeking to protect name trademarks, guiding market entities to operate pursuant to law, and creating a fair and orderly market competition environment.