As China attracts more global attention, a lot has been made of intellectual property rights (IPR) issues, such as their theft or misappropriation.
This has prompted many SMEs who are operating in China to ask Hongda how to register trademarks in China.
But what can foreign companies who are looking to open up shop in China or are already running here do to prevent IPR issues, and can Hongda offer clear information on how to register our trademark or IPR in China?
Keep reading as Hongda explores how China trademark registration will be beneficial if you're doing business in China or will be soon...
How To Prevent IPR Issues When Doing Business In China
Firstly it's important to make clear that the Chinese authorities are on your side.
China wants to be a 'friendly' place for foreign businesses to come, set up shop, and trade.
IPR is an important part of doing business foe many foreign companies, as this can include their company name, brands, logo, product design, etc.
While the horror stories may be off-putting and sow fear for some, there are steps that can be taken to protect IPR in China.
- Research your trademark/s in China using the SAIC database (Hongda can do this for you) in order to understand if it's possible for you to register your trademarks, or if someone has 'squatted' on them
- Register your trademark/s
- Monitor trademarks and re-register before they expire (10 years)
Despite being fairly complex and time-consuming, as is the way with many legal tasks here, China trademark registration is fairly inexpensive. Even a company with several trademarks could protect them all for only a few thousand US dollars or so.
This is a much lower cost than one can expect to pay for setting up a business in China, yet were your trademarks to have somehow been taken then it may be impossible to trade at all without completely re-branding or fighting in court to wrest back control. Who knows how much this could cost in time and money? It doesn't bear thinking about.
What Can Be Registered As A Chinese Trademark?
As you'd expect, trademarks in China can be similar to those in the rest of the world.
As it stands, the following things could be a trademark:
- Combinations of the above
- Sounds (such as a jingle)
What Can Go Wrong With Trademarks In China?
Do not assume that trademarks registered in your country of origin will be legal when doing business in China, they are not. In addition, because China runs a system where the first organisation to file their claim to a trademark is granted its rights, the system can leave foreign companies at a loss when finally entering the Chinese market.
Were they to have built up some global fame, it is possible that local organisations could 'block' the trademarks by registering them in advance, in the hope that when the succesful company entered the China market they'd have to accept to pay them a hefty distributor's fee, or settle out of court in order to gain the right to use their own trademarks.
Fair? Arguably not.
Disastrous? Not if you're prepared.
- Research your trademarks and make sure that no one is squatting.
- Even if your trademark has been registered, you need to know which business classification it is in. Different classifications to your business may mean that you can still register yours for your chosen classification - for instance, if your trademark is registered for construction supplies, but your business is in foodstuffs, then this may not be an issue (there are 45 industry classes, and in China these have sub-classes too, and so there is plenty of scope for you to register the 'right' trademark).
- If someone has taken your trademark already consult legal experts in China to find out your options before going on the offensive.
- Perhaps your brand can be differently named and presented within China without requiring an expensive global re brand.
- If your trademark/s are not taken, register them ASAP!
If trademarks aren't registered then you could run into the following problems:
- Another company beats you to the punch, either by coincidence or for more nefarious reasons, thereby blocking you from using your own trademark in China.
- If you cannot use your own trademark in China then trading here would be very difficult if you're a business who relies upon a particular brand, logo, colour, etc.
- If you produce goods for export, then if they're branded with your logo (which may be legally registered IPR in your country) which is not a registered trademark in China, then the Chinese authorities have every right to seize your goods and not permit them to be exported.
If a trademark is registered then you have the rule of law on your side, and may be able to settle disputes via administrative procedures and without even needing to go to court, which is understandably costly.
Download our FREE eBook "An Introduction To China Trademark Registration" and learn why and how to protect yourself when doing business in China.
How To Register Trademarks In China
Now that we have impressed upon you how important it is to register trademarks in China, the question remains of how to do so.
Hongda have been registering trademarks for foreign companies since 2007, and our experts can help you to do this with the minimum of effort on your part.
Typically when registering a trademark we follow this procedure:
Request documents required
- Company name and contact details in English and Chinese
- Copy of company incorporation certificate
- Signed power of attorney from company director
- Images of the trademark to be registered (x6 in both print and digital format, minimum sizes of 5x5cm up to 10x10cm)
- Chosen trademark classification (select from 45) and up to 10 sub-classifications
Now that the documents are prepared, we will:
- Prepare the documents and application
- Check the China trademark registry for your trademark
- Submit your application
- Return the approval certificate to you
This is not a process that takes just weeks, in fact many months are likely due to the different offices involved and that time needs to be given for any objections to be given by other businesses. You, however, don't need to worry about this. Once you have filed the trademark it will be on record that your business has intended to register this trademark first, and therefore you should be protected from then onwards against others trying to block your trademark.
Share Your Thoughts On How To Register Trademarks In China
Have you registered a trademark or trademarks in China?
What was your experience?
Which parts caused you difficulty, and what advice would you give to other businesses starting on this route?
Join the discussion and share your thoughts on how to register trademarks in China by leaving a comment below for our community!