Recently the Helpdesk team has been made aware of three new online tools developed by IP professionals to address IP protection challenges. These practical resources provide European SMEs and intermediary organisation improved information on three key aspects of IPR protection in China:
The Chinese Trade Mark Sub-Class System
Like most European countries, China uses the Nice classification system to categorise and designate trade marks. Trade marks do not provide exclusivity across all sectors but only in a specific industry or class. This is why the trade mark Dove for chocolate and Dove for shower gel can coexist.
In addition to the class system, China has an added level of demarcation through the sub-class system which further divides sectors. For example, class 15 is for musical instruments and China further splits the class into 1501 for musical instruments and 1502 for musical instruments accessories and parts. This means if you wish to sell both guitars and guitar strings in China, you must be sure to register your trade mark for both classes. This is not always obvious to EU SMEs and can lead to trade mark application errors and loss of rights.
Given that the China Trade Mark Office lists the sub-classes in Chinese only, until now it has been challenging for European SMEs to confirm the correct classes in which to register. A new, complimentary online tool, XClass, developed by law firm HFG, provides an excellent source to quickly check what sub-classes relate to each class and avoid making registration mistakes.
Chinese Laws in Translation
Another project co-funded by the European Commission and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), IP Key focuses on the development of the IPR framework in China and cooperation between EU and Chinese agencies. IP Key offers a publically accessible database of all Chinese IP laws in both original Chinese and English translation. In addition, the database offers all EU IP laws and various other useful documents and reports from industry experts. The whole database can be easily searched and documents downloaded into a personalised portfolio for later access. This is a substantial yet easy to use tool for research and reference.
The Intellectual Property Publishing House (IPPH), which is sponsored and supervised by the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) has recently released an English language version of their popular patent information database CNIPR. IPPH sates that CNIPR is ‘the most extensively used Chinese patent information searching platform by most Asian countries’.
As well as providing valuable information on existing patents to allow European SMEs to map which technologies are registered on the Chinese market, the tool can also be used to monitor patent prosecution, assignment, pledge and licensing which is invaluable in building up a full picture of the health of a particular patent and the company which holds it.
Although this service is not free to use, it does represent a good advance in resources accessible to non-Chinese speakers to search Chinese patent information.