The are many reasons for foreign companies to register trademarks in China, most notably that it protects your intellectual property (IP), such as your brand name, from abuse within China.
Since China has a 'first-to-file' system of trademark registration, it is quite possible for other people or organisations to register your trademarks in China before you have a chance to. >> Tweet This <<
Once this 'squatting' occurs, you will be left with the difficulty of not being able to trade as your brand, needing to undergo expensive litigation to reclaim the IP, having branded products set for export seized by customs, or having to settle with whoever has squatted your trademark.
We can all agree that none of these above options are particularly appealing, and therefore that China trademark registration is a good idea, but before we register anything we need to know what kinds of trademarks may be registered in China.
Keep reading as we explore...
Which Designs Can Be Registered As Trademarks In China?
According to Chinese trademark law's article 8, the following visual marks may be applied for as a trademark and will appear in the China trademark database:
- 3D signs
- Combinations of colours
- Combinations of any of the above
It's crucial for foreign companies to understand that the 'main' trademark in China should be in Chinese (in the case of words, such as a brand name), as this will be the primary trademark as most Chinese people only understand Chinese language. >> Tweet This <<
Therefore, registering the Chinese version of your main trademarks is key, and may require you to get them translated into a format that local people will understand. This may either be a literal translation (which makes sense in Chinese but may not sound similar to how your foreign trademark is read), or a phonetic translation (where the Chinese characters selected, when read, sound the similar to or the same as your foreign trademark's pronunciation).
Coca Cola is a great example with which to illustrate this point. Here is their Chinese trademark:
Whilst as a foreign reader you probably cannot read the Chinese version of 'Coca Cola,' but you can see that the shape of the font is common to the foreign trademark, and the colours are too. The fact that Coke's Chinese version reads: "Kekoukele," or 'tasty fun' is largely irrelevant in meaning and very similar to the common name, but is in terms that Chinese people are able to read.
Perhaps some local advice on which Chinese trademark to register will be helpful, but in the meantime you may find this blog on translating brand names into Chinese useful.
Download our FREE eBook "An Introduction To China Trademark Registration" and learn why and how to protect yourself when doing business in China.
Types Of Trademarks You Can Register
Let's round up the types of trademarks it's possible to register in China now that we understand what can make up a trademark:
Product trademarks identify goods, such as the brand name of 'Coca Cola' as above
Service trademarks identify a company providing a service, such as the trademark for a rail company
Certification marks are symbols that verify that products have been manufactured to a specific standard, and include such symbols as 'CE,' 'FCC,' 'CAS,' 'UL,' and many more
Collective trademarks are symbols registered in the name of groups, associations or other organisations for the use of their members. A good example is 'Woolmark,' which is used by members of the wool industry.
Before registering your own you can check which trademarks have already been registered by searching the China trademark database (results are given in English).
You May Not Register The Following
The following symbols cannot be registered as Chinese trademarks:
Symbols that are the same as or similar to the Chinese State name, national flag, national emblem, military flags or military decorations of the PRC, other country or intergovernmental or international organization, unless approved by such government or organization
Symbols that are the same as special names of places where Chinese government offices are located, or names or images of symbolic buildings
Symbols that are the same as or similar to official symbols or inspection imprints that indicate the implementation of controls or that give guarantees, unless authorized;
Names and symbols that are the same as or similar to the Red Cross or Red Crescent
Symbols that are racially discriminatory
Symbols that make exaggerated claims or are fraudulent
Symbols that harm socialist moral behavior or have other undesirable effects
Symbols containing a product's generic name, graphics or model
Symbols which only directly indicate a product's quality, main raw materials, function, weight, quantity or other characteristics
Symbols lacking any prominent characteristics
So there you have it, your options on which China trademarks you can, and should, consider registering if entering the China market.
Do you have any questions about China trademark registration? Perhaps our FREE eBook "An Introduction To China Trademark Registration" can help?
Have you undertaken this task for your company? How did you find it, and what advice do you have for our community who may considering registering their trademarks now?
Please leave any questions or comments below as a comment on this blog!