China IPR SME Helpdesk External Expert Charles Feng Interviewed by South China Morning Post regarding Intellectual Property Protection for Foreign-invested Companies in China

trademarkToday we would like to share with you an interview with China IPR SME Helpdesk external expert Mr. Charles Feng  from East & Concord Partners that was published in South China Morning Post. You will find the link below following the interview summary kindly drafted by East & Concord Partners. 

In August 2017, US President Donald Trump executed an administrative order to initiate an investigation against China in accordance with Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, on the basis that “China has stolen plenty of intellectual properties from American companies as well as forced American companies which plan to enter Chinese market to build unfair joint venture relationship with Chinese companies”. Thereafter, on September 8, 2017, twelve Chinese government authorities related to intellectual property protection, including State Intellectual Property Office (“SIPO”), Ministry of Public Security (“MPS”), State Administration for Industry and Commerce (“SAIC”), Supreme People’s Court (“SPC”) and Supreme People’s Procuratorate (“SPP”), jointly issued the Action Plan on Intellectual Property Protection for Foreign-invested Companies, initiating a four-month nationwide campaign from September 2017 to December 2017 to combat infringements and criminal violations against intellectual property rights of foreign-invested companies. Whether a coincidence or not, the above two news may seem a little opposite, which draws much attention on the intellectual property protection for foreign-invested companies in China.

In preparation for its recent article Lessons from Donald Trump and Michael Jordan on Trademarking in China focusing on current status and strategies of trademark protection in China for foreign-invested companies, South China Morning Post (“SCMP”) interviewed several well-known experts in this field, including Charles Feng, partner of East & Concord Partners, and Liao Fei, partner at international law firm King & Wood Mallesons. Continue reading “China IPR SME Helpdesk External Expert Charles Feng Interviewed by South China Morning Post regarding Intellectual Property Protection for Foreign-invested Companies in China” »

IP Protection in the Food & Beverages Industry in Thailand

shutterstock_173260598In today’s blog post we are taking a closer look to IP protection in Thai food and beverage industry, which is growing fast and attracting more and more European SMEs. You’ll learn more about brand protection in Thailand and how to protect your unique product packaging. The article will also discuss trade secrets and geographical indications. 

Thailand’s rapidly growing food & beverage industry is one of the biggest contributors to nation’s economy, contributing about 23% of the country’s GDP. Known as the ‘food basket of Asia’, Thailand is one of the Asia’s largest producers and exporters of food, with food exports amounting to 23.5 billion EUR in 2015.[1] Given Thai government’s commitment to positioning the country as a global food innovation hub, Thailand’s F&B industry has recently become very attractive for European SMEs.

Propelled by increasing dispensable income, Thailand’s domestic food and beverages market looks promising for the European SMEs. The country’s rapidly growing urban middle class constitutes a consumer base that is increasingly health-conscious, pays attention to the nutrition value of the food, but at the same time is increasingly eager to purchase processed and packaged foods and, especially the urban youth, is willing to try out new flavors and exotic F&B products. The busy lifestyle of urban youth is favoring ready-to-eat meals, snack foods and convenience products.

As the spending power of the upper-middle class is increasing, there is also greater demand for imported premium products, which offers many business opportunities for the European SMEs.

At the same time, together with rapid economic growth, counterfeiting in food products has also increased dramatically in recent years. Thus, the EU SMEs should take steps to ensure that their IP rights are protected, when selling their food products to Thailand, especially as neglecting to register IP rights in Thailand could easily end SMEs’ business endeavor in the country. Continue reading “IP Protection in the Food & Beverages Industry in Thailand” »

Basics of Manufacturing Non-disclosure Agreements in China

Page 1. ContractsIn today’s blog post we are going to take a closer look at different contracts and agreements that help European companies to protect their precious IP in China. In particular, you will learn more about non-disclosure agreements and non-use, non-disclosure and non-circumvention agreements. 

Introduction: contracts in China

Many SMEs view Chinese manufacturers as cheap, technically-skilled, attractive options for manufacturing their products and as such pursue partnerships with them. While Chinese manufacturers can be the key to the products needed to give your company worldwide reach, China—like all countries—can be home to unscrupulous merchants with a taste for IP theft. As such, tailoring contracts to suit your intellectual property rights (IPR) is an important way to ensure that your company’s specific intellectual property assets are adequately protected when dealing with Chinese manufacturers. In particular, this article will address use of so-called NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and NNNs (non-use, non-disclosure, and non-circumvention agreements) to protect an SME’s trade secrets—“any non-public technical or business information with commercial value that is guarded by confidentiality measures.”

What are NDAs and NNNs?

At its core, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between an SME and a Chinese manufacturer is an agreement which states that once the SME reveals its trade secrets to the Chinese manufacturer, the manufacturer will refrain from disclosing those secrets to anyone else. Once a secret loses its secrecy—once it is revealed to the public—it no longer has any kind of legal protection and, most likely, will lose its economic value. That is why NDAs are go-to contracts for any SME which seeks to use a Chinese manufacturer. Otherwise, the manufacturer could reveal the SME’s trade secrets, making those secrets impossible to protect and capitalise on. Continue reading “Basics of Manufacturing Non-disclosure Agreements in China” »

IP Considerations in South-East Asia for the Food and Beverages Industry

gi-pictureIn today’s blog post we are taking a closer look at the IP protection in the food and beverage sector in South-East Asia, a sector that has recently seen a  lot of attention from the European SMEs as it offers many promising business opportunities. In this blog post you’ll learn more about branding, protecting your product packaging and protecting your authentic products from specific geographical region with Geographical Indications. 

South-East Asia is home to more than 600 million people and it is the third largest market in the world, with ten countries integrated in a common market under the ASEAN Economic Community. South-East Asia also has high economic growth between 3-10 percent per annum, which is driven primarily by consumption, due to the large population and a growing middle-class.

With higher disposable incomes and increasing health-consciousness, today’s consumers in South-East Asia are seeking healthier food and beverage choices. They tend to look for higher quality products, including those imported from overseas. This has opened up a range of attractive opportunities for European as European products are generally considered to be of high quality. However, diversity and regulatory affairs can sometimes be challenging in various local markets. South-East Asia has a wide mix of cultures, religions, customs, culinary preferences, and demographics that greatly impacts the F&B sector. For example, Indonesia and Malaysia have large Muslim populations, which could provide many business opportunities for halal-certified F&B products manufactured in Europe. Conversely, there are limited opportunities for imported wines and spirits in Indonesia and Malaysia due to the religious limitations on alcohol consumption.

European SMEs should, however, not forget to pay attention to protecting their IP, because despite the fact that most South-East Asian countries have good IP laws and regulations in place, IP infringements are relatively commonplace throughout South-East Asia. Well-managed IP is often a key factor for business success and neglecting these rights could be costly. Thus, a comprehensive IPR strategy is needed, when entering South-East Asia’s markets. Continue reading “IP Considerations in South-East Asia for the Food and Beverages Industry” »

Champagne or Sparkling Wine? Geographic Indications Protection in China

Photo Andrea Parrish GeyerAs the food and beverage market offers many business opportunities to European SMEs as Chinese consumers are looking for healthy quality products, we have dedicated today’s blog post to geographical indications protection in China. Registering geographical indications in China offers another layer of protection to SMEs that are producing European high-quality products associated with certain regions or production methods.

What is a Geographic Indication (GI)?

“Champagne”, “Bordeaux”, “Parma Ham”, “Parmesan”. Each of these products, associated with certain regions, are renowned and trusted for their nature, quality and authenticity. As a consumer, you are probably more familiar with “Scotch”, “Cognac” and “Bavarian beer” than unnamed brands claiming to use the same ingredients. A GI is therefore a labelling that identifies a good as originating in a specific territory, region or locality, where characteristics of the good are associated with its place of origin.

GIs are protected by World Trade Organization (WTO) signatories, including all 28 European Union (EU) Member States (MS) and China – since 2001. This is designed to prevent unfair competition and to protect consumers from purchasing goods that misleadingly claim to be from a particular place.

Made in China?

China’s middle class is growing; as has its appetite for imported – predominantly Western – products. Younger generations spend significantly less time cooking than their parents and are increasingly quality- and status-conscious. In addition, food safety concerns in recent years have encouraged Chinese shoppers to more carefully consider the origin of the products that they consume. Purchasing patterns have therefore experienced a significant shift. Regarding food, large numbers of Chinese people are purchasing brands that are recognised for their quality and food safety standards – this has stimulated a rise in sales of Western goods. Similarly, while sales of traditional alcoholic drinks, like baijiu, still dominate in many places, individuals in wealthy Tier 1 cities are increasingly opting for higher-end Western wines, beers and spirits.[1]  Continue reading “Champagne or Sparkling Wine? Geographic Indications Protection in China” »