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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, cost, and time to register a trademark in the country.
China Trademark Law
As many would claim with a shrugging shoulder, intellectual property laws are not very well developed in China, compared to the EU, Britain, the US, or some other economies.
Although the PRC’s protection over trademarks has gained a relatively better reputation, the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China, 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 how exactly it’s like to apply for a trademark in China.
Where is the China Trademark Office located?
The Trademark Office of the National Intellectual Property Administration is located in Beijing. This is the central government’s branch to supervise the application process.
China Trademark Search: check if the trademark has been already registered by others
This is one of the major reasons why the bureau would turn down a trademark registration application. 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.
Official Trademark Availability Research can help researchers with that. Individuals are allowed to register trademarks in China. But many do not care enough to do researches before filing an application, and that is one of the reasons why they fail the application process.
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.
Steps required for the trademark registration in China
All processes can be conducted online. As mentioned above, there are agencies to help you manage most processes with a cost of down to roughly 400 Yuan and up to thousands of Yuan.
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 for the online application is 270 RMB (300 RMB if you apply by paper, but we are not digging into that situation this time).
You might want to note that 270 RMB is only for one category of products or services, which is quite limited.
If you want your products or services to be protected in different industries or areas, you need to pay several 270 RMB. 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.
Depending on how well you need your products and services to be protected once you acquire the trademark and how much risk you can take during the trademark application process, you can hire an agency from 270 RMB to several thousand.
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.
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 as simple as a 270 RMB business.
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 270 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 a total failure.
Register a trademark in China is extremely important for companies that want to avoid that their name and brands get stolen by other companies and use for other kinds of purposes.
Remember to check the laws and rules before applying for a trademark in China. We hope that this article was helpful to you to make you understand more about the trademark in China and how to register that.