Trademark has value not only to the owner due to its distinctiveness but also to customers who associate this trademark with a specific product or service. Moreover, if a foreign company wants to enter into a licensing agreement with a Chinese distributor, the foreign firm has to register the trademark in China first. Most renowned Chinese distributors will only form business relationships with overseas enterprises whose trademark is registered in China.
Patents, utility models, and design rights
China’s Patent Law deals with the protection of rights over technological inventions, as in the UK, but it also covers utility models and designs (also known as ‘design patents’). Invention patents give protection for a maximum of 20 years, utility models for ten, and each is subject to the payment of annual fees. It may be a good idea to apply to register a product as a utility model if your invention patent is not granted.
Essential information for registering IP, trademark, copyright, and/or patent with China customs–
- A copy of your business license or certificate of incorporation (or another legal document confirms your company’s existence). These documents must be in Chinese or translated into Chinese.
- A copy of the Chinese registration certificate for your trademark, patent, or copyright.
- A Power of Attorney.
- Pictures of the goods for which you are seeking protection and their packaging.
Due to the ‘first to file system, the outcome of any trademark dispute primarily hinges on who registered it first in China. The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) performs an ex officio examination of the existence of identical and/or similar earlier rights to the one intended to be protected as a trademark. It means that the existence of identical or similar earlier rights can prevent the registration of a trademark filed at a later stage and that the filing must be done as soon as possible. So, if you are planning to do business in China, it is important to register your trademark first.
Copyright owners and the obligees related to copyright may authorize a collective management organization of copyright to exercise the copyright or the rights related to copyright. The collective management organization of copyright may, after being authorized, claim rights in its own name for the copyright owners and the obligees related to copyright, and may, as a party concerned, participate in the litigation and arbitration activities involved with copyright or the rights related to copyright.