Understanding the IP Registration Model in China

The China Trademark Office regularly publishes trademark applications for the opposition. If a squatter tries to register your mark or a potential competitor tries to register a similar mark, you can oppose that mark before it is registered.  If you were planning on operating in China before then, you may need to license your own mark.

Intellectual property rights – systems in China

Intellectual Property Rights are legally enforceable rights over the use of inventions or other creative works. As per the definition of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). While its IP courts, filing processes, and enforcement have dramatically improved, the old problems have not gone away. Foreign companies are still at risk from IP ‘hijackers’ – for example, Chinese suppliers that file their foreign client’s IP without their permission. China grants patents on a first-to-file basis. According to Article 9, patent rights will be granted to the first applicant if two or more applicants apply for a patent for the same invention separately. Once the patent is granted for an invention-creation, no unit or individual can exploit the patent without the permission of the patentee.


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.


The procedures and practice of Law in China are different from the EU, and businesses should not expect that IPR registration or enforcement will be carried out in the same way as in their home countries. Cultural and language barriers are always significant roadblocks for outsiders doing business in China.


According to the China IP lawyers, it is important for foreign businesses to monitor laws, regulations, and judicial interpretations to ensure that the company’s IP enforcement strategies are valid under Chinese law. Examples of areas that may require scrutiny include employment contracts, IP licensing arrangements, and evidence collection procedures.


You may also wish to secure Chinese language versions of your trademarks. Registration in Roman characters does not automatically protect the trademark against the use or registration of the same or similar trademark written in Chinese.


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