(By Gao Shaoyi, Li Rong)Online education is becoming increasingly more important to educational and training industries due to the impact of Covid-19. Online education platforms provide various educational services including course video recording, live online teaching, personalized teaching and instructing, test question searching, work assessment, etc., which to some extent reduce the effect of suspension of on-campus classes on teachers and students. There are many online education platform developers and a lot of online education platform software products launched. Some software brands are copied from others. Therefore, for online education platform software developers, giving a protection for intellectual property rights in their online education platforms in all respects is the only way to gain more core competitive advantages and succeed in today’s market.
1.The Civil Codeof the People’s Republic of China
Promulgated by the National People’s Congress
Promulgation date: 28 May 2020
Implementation date: 1 January 2021
Document number: No.45 President Order
The Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China consists of 1260 items in seven chapters, i.e. general principles, rights in property, contracts, personality rights, marriage and family, inheritance, infringement and attached sections.
The lawmaking committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress started to work on the Civil Code in March 2015. The general principles of the civil law were reviewed and passed on the 5th meeting of the 12th National People’s Congress in March 2017. In December 2019 the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress reviewed the draft of the Civil Code incorporating the general principles of the civil law and drafts of the chapters of the amended Civil Code and decided to submit the draft of the Civil Code to the 3rd meeting of the 13th National People’s Congress for review.
(By Nie Shengnan)Just before the Chinese Spring Festival 2020, Convid-19 broke out across our country. The government has taken a series of measures to control the spread of the disease, including spring festival holiday extension, increases in the number of inspectors, closure of highways, delay of work and business resumption, quarantine at fixed places and times, etc. These measures are bound to affect the term of work on construction projects. How to calculate the time when the majeure force incident appears and disappears is an issue that the parties involved are very concerned about and is very likely to cause disputes when builder units claim exemption of liabilities based on force majeure clauses.
1.Opinions (I) on Legally and Appropriately Dealing with Civil Cases Arising from the Covid-19 Pandemic
Promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court
Document No. F.F. 12
Promulgation date: 20 April 2020
Opinions is comprised of ten items relating to use of support services provided by legal authorities, accurate application of force majeure rules, legally and appropriately dealing with contract, labor and other cases, exemplary damages, suspension of time limit on legal actions and extension of the period of legal proceedings, aid and support from legal authorities and companies. In general, the Opinions are given mainly from four aspects below.
(By Zhao Sen)There is a widespread concern about the news that Luckin Coffee, a famous Chinese company listed on the US stock market underwent an over 80% slump in share price because of the allegation of financial information falsification. According to documents provided by Luckin Coffee to SEC, Tencent Securities reported, CEO of Luckin Coffee and some of employees who reported to him did improper activities, including false deals since the second quarter of 2019. According to the US Securities Law 1934 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, in addition to a large sum of fines, a person who has committed securities related fraud may face an imprisonment of up to 25 years. Is falsification by Luckin Coffee a crime in Chinese law? This is a good question.
1.Information Security Technology and Personal Information Safety Rules
Published by the State Standardization Administration
Document No. GB/T 35273-2020
Publication date: 6 March 2020
Implementation date: 1 October 2020
Rules deals with personal information collection, storage and use matters and states that personal information owners have the rights to access, correct, remove, revoke the license, cancel the account and obtain copies of personal information. There are three major changes this time from the 2017 version.
（By Wang Haichuan）The new Export Control Law of China (the “Draft”) was published for public comments on December 28, 2019. This is the first law on export control in China. Export control means measures taken to prohibit or restrict the export of certain items such as nuclear, biological products or weapons in order to fulfill international obligations such as non-proliferation obligation, national security and development interests, etc. Currently, there are administrative regulations of export control on chemicals, general nuclear items, nuclear items used for multi-purpose, missiles, military products, biological products (the “Current Regulations”). Compared with the Current Regulations, the Draft makes no change in the current regulatory mechanism and allocation of responsibility and duties, appropriately improves the system and measures and fills blanks in laws. This article will focus on the changes in export control and their possible impact on companies doing business in China.
1.Foreigner Permanent Residence Regulations of the People’s Republic of China (Draft Version)
Published by the Ministry of Justice
Publication date: 27 February 2020
Draft Version clearly states that the foreign permanent resident’s identity card is the identity document of foreign permanent residents in China. Foreign permanent residents with this document can do and none of relevant organizations and their staff can prevent them from doing certain activities. Draft Version sets out the eligibility for foreigners applying for permanent residence in China. For instance, foreigners who have made globally recognized achievements in economics, science and technology, education, culture, health, sports and other areas can apply for permanent residence application directly. Foreigners who have made significant contribution to China’s economic and social development and obtained recommendation of relevant government authority or the provincial, autonomous region or municipality government may apply for permanent residence. Foreigners who are needed for the national economic and social development such as urgently needed talents introduced into state key industries and areas and recommended by relevant regulatory authority may apply for permanent residence application. Draft Version provides that the foreigner wanting to obtain permanent residence in China should file a permanent residence application to the exit and entry administration affiliated with the public security department of the place where the applicant lives. The applicant should ensure information contained in the application form is true, submit photos of their passport or other international travel document or of specific standards and other documents, attend an interview and give their human identification information such as fingerprint. Foreign permanent residents cannot stay in China for less than three months every year. According to Draft Version, foreign permanent residents can use the entry and exit passages only for Chinese citizens, buy commercial houses in China by relevant rules for personal use or to live in, pay and use public housing funds by public housing fund management rules. Foreigners with permanent residence in the specific age group or their accompanying children who have not reached adulthood can receive compulsory education in China and only need to pay mandatory fees. (Source: Website of the Ministry of Justice)
(By Wang Haichuan)Facing the coronavirus epidemic, some people are going on the extra 10-days’ holiday, while others are worrying about their contracts. For example, the Government of Shanghai requires local enterprises not resume their work before 24:00 of February 9th. Such requirement may result in a delay or failure of contract performance. This brings about a few questions. Who should be responsible for the contract breach? Can the contract be extended or terminated? What about allocation of damages arising from the contract termination.
I.The epidemic is a force majeure event
People usually think of such events as force majeure. Is the coronavirus epidemic a force majeure event? Chinese courts used to consider similar events as force majeure. The SARS epidemic in 2003 is very similar to the coronavirus epidemic this time. The Supreme Court issued the notice regarding contract disputes arising from SARS (“SARS cases”) in 2003. Accordingly, contract disputes arising from the SARS epidemic or government acts to prevent and control the SARS epidemic should be resolved according to force majeure related provisions. Actually, there are contract disputes decided by Chinese courts as caused by force majeure events.
According to the Contract Law of the People’s Republic of China, if a contract cannot be fulfilled due to a force majeure event, the liabilities may be exempted in whole or in part depending on the impact of the force majeure event. The “exemption of liabilities” means no longer needing to pay damages and be responsible for the breach of the contract, but does not mean exempting the obligation to perform the contract. For example, in case of delayed performance of a contract, the defaulting party shall pay the non-defaulting party 0.5% of the contract price as penalty for each day of delay. When the performance is delayed due to force majeure, the delaying party is entitled to refuse to pay the penalty pursuant to force majeure related provisions. After the disappearance of a force majeure event, the other party is entitled to require the delaying party to continue to perform the contract.
You may feel less worried after reading the above paragraph because anyhow you are not liable for the contract breach. However, force majeure related provisions do not apply in all cases where a force majeure event occurs. For example, the effect of the epidemic on a sales contract may be different from that on a tourism contract. For instance, a tourism contract for a trip to Wuhan is completely unable to be performed, while a computer sales contract between two Shanghai-based companies are not be affected at all. Therefore, the impact of force majeure events on the performance of contracts should be determined on a case-by-case basis by taking actual circumstances into consideration. In some SARS related cases, courts found that the SARS epidemic and restrictions imposed by the government due to the SARS epidemic only affected part of the business of the defaulting party in a way that was not serious enough to “directly” or “basically” cause the contract to be unable to be performed and therefore the force majeure event could not be a legal reason for the contract termination[L.S.2.M.K.Z.No.14 Tenancy Contract Case of Second Trial between Dalian Pengcheng Holiday Damu Co., Ltd. and Dalian Zhengdian Watches Co., Ltd.]. In summary, after the occurrence of force majeure events, factors such as the duration of the epidemic, the contents of the contract, the term of the contract and government orders should be taken into consideration to determine whether relevant force majeure provisions can be applied.
II. What should we do after a force majeure event occurs?
The exemption of liabilities in the event of force majeure doesn’t mean that the contractual parties can wait and do nothing until the disappearance of the force majeure event. The parties should do the following things about their contract after the occurrence of a force majeure event.
1. To take active and appropriate measures to reduce the extent of the damage and the adverse effect on the performance of the contract. The party failing to take prompt action is liable for additional losses arising from such failure.
2. To obtain proof of the occurrence of the force majeure event. In some contracts the affected party may be required to provide the other party with proof of the force majeure event within a certain period of time. Therefore, the affected party should be active collecting proof of the force majeure event from government agencies or other third parties.
3. To deal with other contract related issues as soon as possible, especially modification or termination of the contract. In case of modification of the contract, the parties will continue to perform the contract some time later or at a reduced contract price. In the SARS epidemic some tenants had to stop doing business and asked for cuts in rent. Courts supported their claims in equitable fashion[(2004) H.2.Z.M.2.(M) Z.Z.No.354 House Lease Contract Case between Shanghai Pipe Entertainment Co., Ltd. and Shanghai New Huangpu (Group) Co., Ltd.]. In case of termination of the contract, neither party is liable for the termination if the purpose of the contract cannot be met because of the force majeure event.
4. Any party that wants to terminate the contract needs to collect evidence of losses arising from the contract performance. After the termination, the fulfilled part of the contract should be paid for, with the rest part of the contract price not needing to be paid. The cost of preparations made for the performance of the contract made are part of losses of the parties to the contract. Courts usually award damages in an equitable fashion. In some cases, each party pay 50% damages[cf. Government’s Abstract Administrative Act Resulting in Non-Performance of a Contract Can Be Considered as a Force Majeure Event, by Li Hu, People’s Judicature, 20th issue 2009, pp.83-86; and the written judgement for the (2016) SPC.M.Z.No.220 contract case of second trial between Bai Junying and the Government of Tumd Zuoqi].
5. To send a written notice to the other party to the contract. Issuing such written notice will give you the following advantages. First, giving a clarification of measures taken to mitigate the adverse effect of the force majeure event could reduce the risk of being held liable (for further losses). Second, there are different approaches to addressing issues arising from an force majeure event (such as change or termination of the contract). Sending a written notice can give you an advantage of making a good choice for yourself. A notice usually contains:
(1) details of the force majeure event and its effect;
(2) measures taken or to be taken by you to reduce losses after its occurrence;
(3) your proposed plan to deal with other contract related issues arising therefrom (such as change or termination);
(4) your losses arising from performance of the contract and loss distribution plan (if the contract is terminated)
6. To actively negotiate with the other party and prepare for possible action. The two parties must reach a mutual agreement for the change of contract. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, an action may be brought to change the contract. When a force majeure event occurs, the possibility of contract disputes is higher. Therefore, on one hand, the parties involved should discuss and negotiate with each other actively to resolve the problems; on the other hand, they must prepare for possible litigation.
We suggest the parties affected by the epidemic of the coronavirus:
1.evaluate the impact of the epidemic on the contract performance to see whether force majeure related provisions are applicable;
2. take reasonable measures to reduce losses after the occurrence of the force majeure event;
3. obtain proof of the occurrence of force majeure event;
4. decide how to deal with issues related to the contract (change or termination);
5. collecting evidence of losses arising from the performance of the contract;
6. sending a written notice to the other party as soon as possible to fix related facts and express your opinions;
7. discuss with each other actively and prepare for possible litigation.
1.Interpretation of Several Issues Connected with Application of Laws to Hearing Cases of Smuggling and Illegally Doing Business in and Using Dopes
Promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court
Document number: L.I.  No.16
Promulgation date: 18 November 2019
Implementation date: 1 January 2020
The Interpretation states that government officials and personnel of organizations that exercise their powers to administer anti-doping rules will be convicted of crimes of position abuse and dereliction if they abuse or fail to fulfill duties of their position with powers to administer anti-doping rules, causing serious doping offenses and serious damage to the nation’s reputation or very bad social influence. (Source: Website of the Supreme People’s Court)
（By Bai Lituan）The Regulations of Several Issues Concerning Application of the Company Law of the People’s Republic of China (IV) (Legal Interpretation IV of the Company Law) taken into action by the Supreme People’s Court on 1 September 2017 provides that if shareholders claim that the company should distribute its profits without providing a related distribution plan or shareholder resolution, the court should reject the claim unless shareholder rights are abused, causing the company unable to distribute its profits and causing damage to other shareholders. In other words, in principle, courts should reject profit distribution claims brought by shareholders without a related shareholder resolution, unless in exceptional circumstances.
1.Encryption Law of the People’s Republic of China
Promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress
Promulgation date: 26 October 2019
Implementation date: 1 January 2020
The Encryption Law states that main rules on commercial encryption including standard, inspection and certification, market access, use requirement, import and export, e-administration and e-certification service and in-process and post regulation rules on commercial encryption. (Source: Website of the National People’s Congress)
(By Bai Lituan)Securities repurchase is a financial activity of raising funds by selling securities and meanwhile signing an agreement with the buyer to repurchase the same securities at the agreed price and time. There are not many securities repurchase cases because it is not long ago that people in our country began to raise funds in this way. The first case decided by the Shanghai Finance Court is Oriental Securities v Honggao Zhongtai Securities Repurchase case.
Securities repurchase contract related laws mainly include the Securities Law, the Company Law, the minutes of meetings of the Supreme People’s Court on securities repurchase cases and the Notice on Restating Several Issues Connected with Further Standardizing Securities Repurchase Activities published by the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance and the China Securities Regulatory Commission. All securities repurchase cases courts are dealing with come from the main, small and medium sized business and startup boards. My search result shows no securities repurchase cases relating to the new OTC board (the national share transfer system for small and medium sized businesses).
As media reported, Zhang Jiahui, a film star in Hong Kong recently applied for the “渣渣辉” trademark for all items under Class 45. I searched the database of the trademark office and found that Jiangxi Tanwan Information Technology Co., Ltd. (“Jiangxi Tanwan”), the operator of the game “Legend of Blue Moon” had applied for the same trademark before.
All the “渣渣辉” trademark applications filed by Zhang Jiahui would be rejected by the trademark office because of the prior applications. I noticed a big news that Zhang Jiahui and Jiangxi Tanwan were scrambling for “渣渣辉”, a valuable popular brand. Now let’s discuss how the two sides use laws to obtain the trademark.
1.Arrangements Between Courts of Mainland China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for Mutual Support in Preservation Under Arbitration Procedures
Promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court
Document number: L.I.(2019) No.14
Promulgation date: 26 September 2019
Implementation date: 1 October 2019
According to the Arrangements, arbitration procedures for preservation in Hong Kong and mainland China should be seen as similar, people to whom arbitration procedures of Hong Kong apply are allowed to file preservation applications to the people’s court of mainland China and people to whom arbitration procedures of mainland China apply may seek mandamus and other provisional remedies from the court of Hong Kong SAR. The Arrangements consists of thirteen clauses covering the preservation scope, evaluation of arbitration procedures of Hong Kong, preservation application procedures, processing of preservation applications, etc. (Source: Website of the People’s Court Daily)