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Invent your way out of prison

Under Chinese law, inmates who receive a patent are eligible for sentence reductions


Want a get out of jail free card? Try inventing a new technology. If that doesn’t work, take a look into the underground world of patents for purchase.

Under Chinese law, prisoners who invent a new technology may be eligible for sentence reductions. This law has led to a black market specializing in the sale of patents, the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

But this way of gaining favor with the authorities isn’t cheap. According to the report, inmates looking for sentence reductions can contact services claiming to be able to procure patents. A Shaanxi office advertised that it could provide a simple patent for 6,800 RMB, with prices rising to nearly 60,000RMB depending on the level of complexity desired for an invention.

Several high-profile prisoners have received sentence reductions in part because of patents, but both the prisoners and those in charge of approving the reductions maintain that the inventions are 100 percent the work of the prisoners only.

“According to the regulations, it definitely has to be one’s own invention,” a prison official in Tianjin told the Beijing Youth Daily. “To substitute designs or practice fraud is definitely not acceptable.”

A recent beneficiary of the patent regulations is Nan Yong, former vice chairman of China’s national soccer association. In 2012, Nan was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison for corruption and match fixing. This past month, a Beijing court reduced his sentence by one year as a result of his good behavior, which included authoring a science fiction novel and receiving four patents.

Former Zhejiang health official Lian Jianxing, who received a sentence of eight years for bribery in 2008, had a year and three months taken off his sentence for inventing, among other devices, a disposable nose cover to block air pollution.

While the Beijing Youth Daily’s report did not accuse Lian Jianxing or Nan Yong  of using an underground black market service, the article has brought widespread media attention to the previously little known world of inventions for sale.

 Illustration courtesy of Weibo User 中央政协 


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