China Trademark: How To Protect Your Brand In China

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A trademark in China, similar to other countries, is a distinctive sign or symbol that is used by individuals, businesses, or organizations to identify and distinguish their goods or services from those of others. 

Since China only acknowledges trademarks registered within its own jurisdiction, knowing and registering the trademark in China is a key legal step for foreign companies.  Especially when your brand starts to be well-established worldwide and in China, it will most likely encounter trademark squatters, counterfeiters, or grey-market suppliers. In this article, we want to show you the law behind the trademark in China and what are the steps, costs, and time to register a trademark in the country.

China Trademark Law

In China, trademarks are protected by the Chinese Trademark Law, which grants exclusive rights to the trademark owner and prohibits others from using identical or similar marks for similar goods or services. Registering a trademark with the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) provides legal protection and strengthens the rights of the trademark owner. 

Although the PRC’s protection over trademarks has gained a relatively better reputation, the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China, and other rules and regulations forbid many unethical behaviors involving trademarks including applicants maliciously applying for trademarks without using them, trademark-registering agencies accepting faulty applications, and many others.

With strict protection comes a strict application process. Here we are showing you what exactly it’s like to apply for a trademark in China.

Where is China Trademark Office located?

The Trademark Office of the National Intellectual Property Administration CNIPA), is located in Beijing, China. The address of the CNIPA is No.6, Xitucheng Road, Haidian District, Beijing, China. This is the central government’s branch to supervise the application process. 

How to Conduct a Trademark Search in China

The first step in registering a trademark in China is to conduct a thorough search to confirm that your mark is not already in use or infringing on someone else’s rights. Once the search process is complete and you have determined that your mark is unique, you can proceed with the registration. Before starting the search, it is important to create a list of keywords that accurately describe your product or service. Be sure to include similar words and variations, as well as unconventional spellings, to ensure a comprehensive search. Taking these steps will help ensure successful trademark registration in China.

To conduct a trademark search in China, you can utilize an online database provided by CNIPA. This database is available in both Chinese and English languages, making it convenient for users. It contains comprehensive information about registered trademarks and those currently under examination. By using this database, you can check if your desired trademark is already registered or if its application is still being reviewed. This step is essential to ensure the uniqueness and legality of your trademark in China.

Trademark registration in China can be a complicated and time-consuming process. The Chinese trademark system and laws can be challenging to navigate, especially for those unfamiliar with them. That’s why it’s crucial to seek professional help and guidance. At FDI China, we strive to make the trademark registration process as smooth and efficient as possible, ensuring that your brand is legally protected in China.

 Official Trademark Database

The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) offers a publicly accessible online database (商标网上检索系统) specifically designed for trademark searches. This database allows individuals to conveniently search for trademarks and access relevant information. The CNIPA Online trademark database offers a range of tools to cater to different search purposes, including SISTM, SGTMI, STMAS, and STMG. The commonly used tools for trademark searches are SISTM and SGTMI. To initiate your search, you need to select the appropriate database:

– For a basic search, choose SGTMI.

– For an advanced search to identify identical or similar trademarks, opt for SISTM.

– To check the status of a trademark application, use STMAS

Why do Trademark Registration Applications Fail?

Once an application fails, the applicant will have to start over, not only in terms of time but also in terms of money for there is no refund policy. Determining which trademarks in China might pose obstacles to your application requires conducting a comprehensive trademark search. This involves examining existing registered trademarks and pending applications to identify any potential conflicts. 

During the search process, you should look for trademarks that are similar or identical to yours, particularly in terms of goods or services covered, as well as any trademarks that enjoy a significant reputation or have a strong presence in the market. Additionally, it is important to consider trademarks that have been registered in related industries or fields that may cause confusion among consumers. By conducting a thorough trademark search and analysis, you can identify potential obstacles and make informed decisions to avoid any conflicts with existing trademarks in China. 

Competition in the trademark registration agency industry is intense. When considering hiring an agency for the application process, typical fraudulent behaviors by some agencies include talking clients into believing trademark registration will be 100% successful, or somewhere near 100%. Since it usually takes more than a year to learn the result of the application, the time cost can be much higher than expected.

Type of Trademark ObstructionDescription
Same trademark in the same subclassIdentical trademarks registered or applied for within the same subclass can obstruct your application.
Similar trademark in the same subclassTrademarks that are similar to yours, registered or applied for within the same subclass, can pose obstacles.
Same trademark in different classes/subclasses with cross-search rulesTrademarks identical to yours, but registered or applied for in different classes/subclasses, can hinder your application if cross-search rules apply.
Similar trademark in different classes/subclasses with cross-search rulesTrademarks that are similar to yours, but registered or applied for in different classes/subclasses, can create obstacles if cross-search rules apply.

Table: Types of Trademarks that May Obstruct Your Application

Note: It is important to consult with a professional intellectual property agency or conduct a comprehensive trademark search to accurately identify any potential obstructions to your application.

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Steps Required for Trademark Registration in China

All processes can be conducted online. If you are to handle it by yourself, here’s a guide just to give you a general impression of its complexity:

  • First step: Confirm that you are qualified by preparing your materials.

If you need your trademark to be tied with your company, you will have to upload a stamped copy of your business license.

  • Second step: Register an account and fill out all the forms on the official website.
  • Third step: wait for 3 months.

If your application does not violate any laws or anybody’s rights, it will be valid after these 3 months.

  • Fourth step: confirm the certificate online.

How Much Does it Cost to Register a Trademark in China?

The cost of a trademark application can vary depending on individual requirements and the number of international classes involved. It’s important to note that businesses often require multiple trademarks to safeguard their brands in China. For example, separate trademark registrations may be needed for your business name, product name, logo, and slogan. Each application process is unique, and it’s recommended to consider these factors when estimating the overall costs associated with trademark registration. 

The cost of registering a trademark in China depends on the number of items you want to register under a specific trademark class. If you register a trademark for ten items of goods under a trademark class, the fee is CNY 300 (USD 50). So for up to 10 items, the fee is 3000 CNY, with an additional charge of 30 CNY for each additional item. It’s important to consider the number of items you need to protect when calculating the total cost of trademark registration.

If you want your products or services to be protected in different industries or areas, you need to pay an additional fee. For example, when Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce titan, registered “Alibaba™” in e-commerce, other entities can still register “Alibaba™” in legal consulting, financial loans, advertising, and many others.

That explains why Alibaba registered Alibaba™ in legal consulting, financial loans, advertising, and many others, which has probably cost the group a lot more than 270 RMB. Under certain circumstances, you might consider buying a trademark that’s already registered by someone else. That could save you half a year with no risk of being turned down by the administration.

How Long does it Take to Register a Trademark in China?

Generally speaking, it takes around 13 months to finalize the whole process. If your application is turned down by the administration or another entity raises an objection against your registration during the publication period, the time can extend tremendously.

The publication period is 3 months. That means after the authority gives you a preliminary pass on your trademark, it publishes your trademark online to make sure your trademark does so little harm to other individuals or entities that within a time that’s as long as 3 months there is no objection raised. After 3 months without objections, you get the certificate, and the trademark is yours.

A trademark is valid for 10 years with every renewal. And it is only protected within the territory of mainland China unless you also apply for an International Trademark Registration. But that is another story. 

Benefits of Trademark Registration in China

As the owner of a trademark, you may already be aware of the advantages of registering your trademark in China. Registering a trademark in China has several benefits. It legally protects your brand and logo, ensuring others can’t copy or use them without permission. It helps your brand stand out and be recognized by customers. You get exclusive rights to use your trademark and can take legal action against infringers. Having a registered trademark can also attract partners or investors and open doors for business expansion. It provides international protection and helps your brand grow.

Tips for Newcomers in the Trademark Business

Let’s dig deeper into the categories.

There are 45 of them and there are items under each. If you have read the example above about how Alibaba registered its trademark in hundreds of fields, you would probably agree it’s usually not simple. 

Alibaba is a large group. What fits Alibaba might not fit most companies. But many companies, regardless of their scale, need advertising rights, which your company does not automatically acquire with its trademark. Applying for an advertising trademark registration is how you do it. Advertising is included in category 35, and the price starts at 300 RMB per category.

Category 35 includes less than 10 items, so you have to register all items under category 35 including industrial management and other things you don’t need. But that’s the game. Separately register your Chinese trademark, English trademark, and graphic trademark.

When Tencent, a social-media and gaming titan, registered its ubiquitous service, WeChat, the Chinese counterpart of Facebook, one would think it also included its Chinese name “微信“.

Yes, it did, separately.

If you look up “WeChat” on the Trademark Office of National Intellectual Property Administration’s website, you don’t see an integrated “WeChat 微信“, instead, the company paid twice the money so they have WeChat and “微信“ each as an individual trademark.

Only this gives Tencent the proper right to combine these two trademarks however they need. Had they registered “WeChat 微信“ in horizontal order, they wouldn’t be able to use it in a vertical order. The same rule applies to graphic trademarks.

There’s another reason to separately apply for them. If “WeChat“ turns out to be rejected, “微信“ might still be accepted. But if you register them combined any single element could be the cause of total failure.

Conclusion

Registering a trademark in China is crucial for companies to protect their name and brands from being stolen or misused by others. It is important to research and understand the laws and regulations before applying for a trademark in China. By registering your trademark, you can safeguard your brand and ensure its exclusive use. This article aims to provide helpful insights on trademarks in China and guide you through the registration process.

Our company can help you to register your trademark in China and if you are interested in company formation or hiring employees in China without a local entity, contact us to get a free consultation!