Key Developments in China’s New Legal Reforms

In January 2019, Chinese government has reframed its legal structure and brought in several changes. Remaining aware of the latest developments is a key issue for the foreign businesses finding for opportunities in China. The US government has urged China to change intellectual property law, end forced technology transfers from the US companies and stop cyber theft of the American trade secrets.

Washington accused Beijing of reneging on commitments to change its laws to enact economic reforms, while Beijing called U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff’s “barbaric.” Leaders from both countries are now vowing a long fight, despite slowing domestic economies. Shi Yinhong, a prominent international relations scholar from Renmin University, said the gap between the two sides was widening as Washington demanded a strong enforcement mechanism while Beijing wanted more leeway.

In the current scenario, the US and the European companies with a business interest in China should closely follow the changes in the Chinese legal framework to ensure their business stays compliant in China.

Individual Income Tax (IIT) Reform

China’s IIT reform introduced a host of changes to the system of individual taxation in the country. In addition to the introduction of special additional deduction and the reform of the 5-year rule, it is also discussed how the taxable basis apportionment between China- and foreign-sourced income is defined.

The tax reform includes the following major changes:

  • Tax brackets and tax rates
  • Special additional deductions
  • Cumulative withholding tax method
  • New method for determining employee tax type
  • Tax income categories

China’s New E-Commerce Law

China’s comprehensive e-commerce law will bring heightened pressure on online retail companies to fight the sale of counterfeit and copycat merchandise on their platforms. Coverage of the E-commerce Law is very broad. According to Article 2, e-commerce refers to any operational activities that sell goods or provide services via information networks like the Internet. One important feature of the new law is the requirement that online businesses must register their business and acquire all necessary licenses regulating particular activities, such as the sale of therapeutic drugs.

IP Protection Regulations

Amendments to the Trademark Law come down heavily on trademark squatters and those found guilty of trademark infringement – key grievances repeatedly cited by foreign brands in China. On 23 April 2019 China passed amendments to two major IP laws -the Trademark Law and the Anti-Unfair Competition Law (AUCL). Specifically, the Trademark Law has been amended in order to tackle bad faith trademark filings without an intent to use by way of clarifying Article 4 of the law.

Key points of China’s IP protection law

  • Increasingly greater entanglement with the internet, data and competition
  • Enhances in the statutory measure of damages
  • Greater concurrence of the patent system with those extant Internationally, particularly in the medical field
  • Easier securing of preliminary and interlocutory

In order to reduce the risk of incompliance, foreign businesses operating in China should immediately comply with the new laws.

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How the Registration of Word Mark in China Provides Broader Rights

A word mark, or logotype is usually a distinct text-only typographic treatment of the name of a company, institution, or product name used for purposes of identification and branding. The number one difference between logos and wordmarks is that wordmarks are text-based logos. The most famous are FedEx, Coca-Cola and even world-famous IBM. These are all examples of highly successful and easily recognizable wordmarks that are easily identified with around the world.

Trademarks in China can be registered in different forms namely word mark, label, logo and device mark. A “word mark” is considered the strongest form of trademark protection you can obtain. Applications for word mark registration in China must include a Standard Character Claim: The mark consists of standard characters without claim to any particular font, style, size or color. In addition to words and logos, three-dimensional signs, color combinations and sounds (including musical jingles) may also be registered as trademarks; namely, non-traditional marks.

Word Mark Registration in China

China permits the filing of a wide range of marks, including sounds, 3D marks and color combinations. But the vast majority of applications are either word marks, logos or a combination of both. In China, it is generally preferable to register all word marks separately from logos, as this will ensure a wider scope of protection for each element. There are many pitfalls you need to avoid when registering a word mark, it’s also important that you know about the process when registering one.

Trademark Classification Framework of China

>> If a trademark comprises English letters or Chinese characters, it is treated as a word mark and will be compared with other prior word marks to determine whether similar prior trademarks exist.

>> If a trademark is a device mark, it will be compared with prior device marks in accordance with the International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Marks (the Vienna Classification).

>> For composite trademarks that combine both word and figurative elements, the mark’s word and device elements will be examined separately.

Trademarks protect your business name, product names, Domain names, logos and slogans. The decision to Trademark is likely one of the most important business decisions you will make. In the view of the prominent China trademark lawyers, when faced with an issue registering a word mark, a design mark can be a viable option to at least secure the logo or other valuable aspects of the mark.

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