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How to Obtain Trademark, Copyrights & Patents in China

China has risen to become the United States’ second largest trading partner and providing huge business prospect for U.S. companies. To get the maximum out of this growing U.S.-China commercial relationship, it is strongly advised to use the Chinese patent system for the U.S. companies. It will ensure that China’s IPR regime works in a transparent, legal, fair, and timely manner for U.S. companies.

The entire trademark, copyright and patent system in China is a minefield of murky rules. The technology giant Apple is embroiled in a legal wrangle over the right to its “iPad” brand. It is significant that Western companies should take more cautious approach to protect their IP in China. Apple’s patent fight is only a wake-up call for the companies that have not paid enough attention to their copyright, trademark and patent registration in China. You could get a fair amount of knowledge in this blog about the whole trademark, copyright and patent related issues.

Trademark-

There is a group called trademark squatters in China exist that caused huge trouble or foreign companies entering the Chinese market. Knowing almost everything about China’s complicated trademark laws, these individuals target reputed foreign brands and register them as trademarks in China. At the centre of these disputes lies China’s “first to file” trademark registration system. It means that the first person to file a trademark has the right to use it in China, regardless of the genuine prior rights of existing companies or individuals. So an individual can legitimately apply for an iPhone trademark in China despite the rights of Apple so long as it beats them to registration. When international companies want to launch their products on the Chinese market, they’re often left with little choice but to cough up huge sums to buy back the trademark, re brand their product or fight for the right to use the brand through lengthy legal battles.

The process to register trademark in China-

  1. Companies should conduct a preliminary search at the China Trademark Office to determine if a similar mark is already registered.
  2. Get an intellectual property agent/attorney to do the filing for you. Keep in mind that China Trademark Registration Office only accepts documents submitted in the Chinese language.
  3. There are altogether 42 classes of trademarks in China. You have to submit your application for at least one of the classes.
  4. Upon submission of all the necessary documents to the China Trademark Office , the Office would review the documents for compliance.
  5. After a preliminary examination, if the Trademark Office is satisfied that the mark applied for registration is not similar or identical to existing registered marks, it will grant a preliminary approval and will publish the mark in the preliminary examination gazette.

Copyrights-

Copyright is a form of intellectual property (IP) that protects a creator’s exclusive right to control who reproduces or alters the product of their original creative effort. Copyright protects the producers of any original work, and is relevant to almost all businesses. China seems to be much more aggressive with intellectual property lately, but not in the way the US companies want. It’s been using patent and copyright laws to make life more difficult for foreign companies, specifically US companies.

The process to register copyright in China

  1. The applicant must complete the copyright registration application form and mail the application materials to CPCC.
  2. The application must contain all the supplemental documents such as the identification documents of the applicant, any documents of copyright ownership, samples of the work, and a brief description of the work.
  3. After receiving the application, the CPCC will review the application materials, determine the cost and notify the company.
  4. Once the applicant pays the fee, they will receive a notice of receipt of payment and notice of application acceptance.
  5. The examination of the application takes approximately 30 working days to complete from the date of acceptance.
  6. After the successful completion of the examination, the applicant will receive a Copyright Registration Certificate.

Patents-

A patent for an invention is granted by government to the inventor, giving the inventor the right to stop others, for a limited period, from making, using or selling the invention without their permission.

When patent protection is granted the invention becomes the property of the inventor, which like any other form of property or business asset can be bought, sold, rented or hired. Patents are territorial rights.

There are three types of patents in China

  • Invention patents
  • Utility model patents
  • Design patents

Patent applications are filed with the Examination Department of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO). The applications must be filed in written form or electronic form in Chinese characters. The actual patent application will generally contain a description, figures/drawings, claims and an abstract.

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