Five important tips to protect your trademark in China
Once known for their inadequate intellectual property rights laws, China has evolved and strengthened their policies to better protect domestic and foreign trademarks since they’ve joined the WTO. However it remains vital to understand these laws in order to maintain your brand equity in China and access the extensive market opportunities China has to offer. Here are five things to know before you register your trademark in China.
- Register your trademark early-- China uses a system called “first-to-file” which differs from policies like those in the US or Europe. This difference is important because evidence needed to show prior use or ownership is not needed and therefore your trademark could “squatted” by someone else, and worse you could have to buy it back from them or have them legally use your trademark with their goods. Chinese infringement enforcement doesn’t protect those who haven’t registered their trademark, so it’s up to you to be proactive.
- Your trademark needs to be distinctive and not conflict with any Chinese trademarks-- In order to have your trademark approved by the SAIC Trademark Office in Beijing, your trademark must be distinctive. Not only is it better for marketing to have a trademark be unique, but with the 2,760,000 other registered trademarks there could be similarities. Even if there is not immediate plan to do business in China, the future business plans may very well depend on the uniqueness and timeliness of registering your trademark.
- Register in the jurisdictions of “Greater China” including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao, and Singapore-- This step is also a recommendation for preemptive measures because it will help if you expand or it can just keep impersonators from trying to confuse customers with their products and yours. While you are making smart legal choices, don’t forget to include this one.
- Create a Chinese version of your trademark-- The Chinese equivalent of your name is important so your product preserves its identity. Local knowledge and extensive understanding of China and the language will assist in finding the best Chinese version of your trademark. Some companies chose literal translations, like Apple, while others find transliterations of their names work best. Huge potential problems can be avoided if usages of words with negative meaning are prevented.
- Create a system to look for infringers-- The next smart step after you’ve registered and been approved in the trademark process is to create a system that will find potential products that are too similar and infringe on your copyright. This should include looking at the Trademark Gazette that displays all the trademarks that have been approved on a preliminary basis. If a possible infringement is found, the next legal action is administrative adjunction, but then civil litigation and criminal prosecution follow. The earlier these are found, generally the less expensive they are to deal with.
Looking ahead is the best policy and these forward-thinking tips about registering your trademark will guarantee just that. Knowing these five important things can help your brand equity and save you from potential time and money-costing problems.
Sources: thenewaegis.com & beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn