China may strengthen criminal punishments to crack down on intellectual property (IP) violations in the seed industry, according to a report submitted to the top legislature on last Friday.
The report was based on a recent enforcement inspection of the Seed Law by members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) to six provinces and relevant government departments and agencies.
Briefing lawmakers, Zhang Baowen, vice chair of the NPC Standing Committee, said despite improvement there is a lack of innovation in producing new seed varieties, and the ability of Chinese seed companies to compete in the global market is not strong.
Strengthening IP protection is seen as an important measure to encourage innovation, Zhang said, citing the enforcement report.
In the report, lawmakers proposed making it a crime to infringe upon a creator's rights to new seed varieties and expanding criminal punishments for offenders. They also suggested simplifying the procedure to charge people who illegally sell seeds for which they do not hold the rights.
It remains a civil offense to counterfeit seed trademarks and certificates or to violate the rights to new seed varieties.
Legislation should be considered to build a comprehensive IP system for plants and farming techniques, using patents, trademarks and other rights, the lawmakers said.
China has 4,300 certified seed companies, with the top 50 accounting for 35 percent of the domestic market, according to the report. But compared to their counterparts in the West, Chinese seed companies in general spend less on research and development.
Zhang said the seed industry is considered a strategic core industry of the state. Chinese companies have been urged to create quality seeds to protect the state's food security.