INVENTIONS

How to get out of jail early in China: buy an inventor’s idea and patent it

Inmates taking advantage of a law that says proven inventors can get their jail terms commuted, according to newspaper report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 January, 2015, 1:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 January, 2015, 1:09pm

Prisoners in China are buying inventors’ ideas so they can patent them and reduce their jail sentences, according to a newspaper report.

The inmates are taking advantage of a law that allows jail terms to be commuted if prisoners can prove they have come up with important technical innovations and inventions, the Beijing Youth Daily said.

The newspaper said it had found a number of agents openly advertising the service to “reduce sentences by patented innovations”.

One intellectual property agent in the northern province of Shaanxi said the service usually started at about 6,800 yuan (HK$8,580) for a basic patent application on behalf of a prisoner.

More complex invention patents cost up to 60,000 yuan, the newspaper said, after one of its reporters posed as a relative of a jail inmate enquiring about the service.

The agent asked for detailed information about the prisoner, including their education, work experience, interests and family background so they could find the most appropriate patent that would have the best chance of getting their sentence reduced, the report said.

The prisoner can have their name put on the patent of an idea already invented or one under development.

The undercover reporter was advised to buy a series of patents over two years.

“We have carried out this sentence reducing service many times in Shaanxi. You can trust us,” the agent was quoted as saying.

“Some rich people come to us right after they get into trouble and before they go to jail. It takes a lot of early preparation.”

Several other intellectual property agencies, who did not advertise the sentence reduction service openly, said it might be possible to carry it out later after they made further enquiries.

One high profile case of a prisoner getting his sentence reduced through patents was the former vice chairman of the Chinese Football Association, Nan Yong, although the article did not suggest the inventions were not his own.

Nan was jailed for 10½ years in 2012 for taking bribes worth more than 1.19 million yuan for fixing matches and abusing his power.

He has had four devices patented by the State Intellectual Property Office.

They include a device that helps footballers train to shoot and a portable soccer goal.

His sentence has been reduced by one year because of his good behaviour, including his inventing and writing.

He also published a science fiction story in 2012.