Trade Marks in China: Q&A for the International Comparative Legal Guide to Trade Marks 2017

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For any EU SME operating in China, Trade Marks will be an important IP asset to have. So in order to meet any questions you might have, our China IPR SME Helpdesk expert Mr. Charles Feng from East & Concord Partners based in Beijing has kindly drafted for us a very useful and informative blog post on Trade Mark Protection in China. In this comprehensive Trade Mark guide, our Q&A with Mr. Feng will give you all the answers you need on Trade Mark protection in China. 

1          Relevant Authorities and Legislation

1.1       What is the relevant trade mark authority in your jurisdiction?

The Trademark Office (“TMO”), which is affiliated with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, is the authorised government agency in charge of trademark administration including examinations of trademark applications, oppositions as well as the cancellation of trademark registrations for three years of non-use.  The Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (“TRAB”) oversees the examination of various applications for appeals against the TMO’s decisions, as well as trademark invalidation matters.

In addition, local Administrations for Industry and Commerce (“AICs”) or Market Supervision Administrations (“MSAs”) are in charge of the administrative enforcement of trademark rights.

People’s Courts have jurisdiction over trials for trademark-related administrative or civil litigation.

1.2       What is the relevant trade mark legislation in your jurisdiction?

The most fundamental legislations include the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC Trademark Law”), the Implementing Regulations of the PRC Trademark Law as well as multiple Judicial Interpretations related to trademark law which are issued by the Supreme People’s Court.

In addition, the Anti-Unfair Competition Law of PRC provides protection to unregistered marks such as distinctive names, packaging or decoration of famous goods.  The criminal code provides protection against counterfeiting activities where the illegal turnover exceeds a certain amount.

Continue reading “Trade Marks in China: Q&A for the International Comparative Legal Guide to Trade Marks 2017” »

How to Protect Trade Secrets in China: a Case Study

fgjMore and more European companies are considering bringing their cutting-edge technology to China, as the market offers many promising opportunities for European high tech companies. However, despite the fact that Chinese IP regime has improved a lot, IP infringements are still commonplace in China and, thus, European SMEs, wishing to successfully  do business in China, need to consider all the possibilities of how to protect their IP in China. Today’s blog post explores the often neglected, but a very useful  way of protecting IP in China – the trade secrets.

Nearly all businesses in all industries and sectors possess trade secrets. Trade secrets are a valuable and highly useful form of intellectual property that are nevertheless often undervalued and overlooked by their owners. This is not least the case in the service sector where the relative value of trade secrets as intangible assets can be extremely high. For example, a logistics firm may not hold any patents or few trade marks and substantial copyrights, but the value of its operations could heavily derive from information contained within client lists and standard procedures.

A considerable advantage for trade secrets is that unlike some other forms of IP rights, such as patents and copyrights that have a finite term, trade secrets can theoretically enjoy an infinite term of protection so long as the trade secret remains just that – a secret. The main difference between protecting something by patent or as a trade secret is that, while technical information is publicly disclosed in patents, it is kept away from the public eye in trade secrets. A trade secret can last forever as long as the confidentiality measures that protect it continue to work. An invention patent typically expires after 20 years.

On the other hand, legal protection of trade secrets is easily lost. Once the information becomes public information, it no longer enjoys any legal protection. As a result, prevention is the golden rule when it comes to protecting your trade secrets, because once your secret is out, there is usually very little that you can do about it. China, like most other countries, provides a legal framework for the protection for trade secrets, and the law provides for remedies in the event that your trade secrets are unlawfully disclosed. Continue reading “How to Protect Trade Secrets in China: a Case Study” »

Protecting your IP while Transferring Technology to China

Manufacture4Since China’s market for clean technologies offers significant business opportunities for the European SMEs, then in this week, the EU Gateway Business Avenues took selected European companies to Beijing, China for a business mission in Clean Technologies. Many of these companies are considering bringing their technology to China, which however,  involves many IP risks. Therefore, in today’s blog post, we have chosen to discuss IP issues relating to technology transfer. The blog post offers some tips on how to safely bring your technology to China. 

Many European Companies are keen to come to China. While in the past, European companies came to China to take advantage of low-cost manufacturing for export, more recently, they have come to enter the Chinese domestic market, establish R&D, engage in cooperative development, take advantage of a skilled work force, establish suppliers, and develop long-term partnerships in China. In order to achieve this, they are often willing to ‘transfer’ their key technology and designs to Chinese subsidiaries of European firms, joint-venture (JV) partners, or Chinese manufacturing and service companies. One of the challenges facing European companies coming to China is devising creative solutions to minimize the risk to their intellectual property (IP) associated with such technology transfers.

A technology transfer happens in a number of different ways. European companies most commonly transfer their technology by licensing their patents, designs, software, trade secrets, and know-how. Ownership of the technology may be transferred, but this type of transfer is less common. A common misconception is that a technology transfer is limited to transfers of high technology. However, many European companies using contract manufacturing to manufacture low technology, consumer, or industrial products, for example based on product designs, must deal with many of the same risks to their IP as their high technology counterparts. Continue reading “Protecting your IP while Transferring Technology to China” »

IP Protection in China for the Food & Beverages Sector: Focus on GIs

gi-pictureLast week China IPR SME Helpdesk organized an exciting webinar on IP protection in the food and beverages sector, focusing on the protection of Geographic Indications. As the topic was very popular, we decided to follow it up with a blog post, focusing on the protection of GIs. The blog post gives an overview of the GIs’ protection in China and offers some advice on how to register GIs. 

Food and Beverages Sector in China

The food and beverage (F&B) industry encompasses the formulation, processing, production, distribution in wholesale or retail, and delivery of food products.  Recent research shows that an increasing number of European F&B SMEs are making significant investments in emerging East Asian markets, particularly China, with new local product development and national business strategies. While this continues, changes are occurring in the industry that is redefining how companies grow, operate, and manage risk. Intellectual property rights (IPR) are a key component of these developments, thus increasing the need to protect those rights in several countries.

When it comes to Chinese Laws and Regulations, the F&B industry is a highly regulated sector. Foreign companies need to apply for a food production license to ensure that they meet the requirements for manufacturing capabilities and environmental regulations. Foreign products need to conform to specific standards and protocols depending on the type of products. Chinese labels need to be applied to the products to complete the Customs clearance and enter the country. In addition, a separate food and beverage distribution license is required to sell in China. Continue reading “IP Protection in China for the Food & Beverages Sector: Focus on GIs” »

The Last (or First) Line of Defense: Using Customs to Protect your IPR in China

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customs1Businesses in Europe have increasingly benefited from Customs authorities acting to prevent counterfeit products from entering their borders – seizures of products infringing on others intellectual property (IP) make news stories around Europe every week. Not many businesses, however, realise that unlike most countries the Chinese Customs authorities not only have the power to examine and seize criminal imports, but also exports. China Customs have the authority to protect IP rights by confiscating infringing goods and imposing fines on infringers. If the infringement of IP rights exceeds a certain threshold, then the Customs authorities will also arrange for criminal proceedings to be brought against the infringing party.

The Customs IP Regulations provide that IP rights can be recorded with the General Administration of Customs (GAC) in Beijing. Although it is not compulsory to record IP rights at the GAC in order to apply to local customs for enforcement proceedings, it is beneficial for a company moving goods in and out of China, because if IP rights are registered with Customs, then Customs has the power to detain at will any suspected infringing consignment of goods. In addition, local customs offices are more proactive when IP rights are recorded with GAC mainly because the recordal provides Customs officials with easy access to internal IP databases and makes it easier for them to determine whether goods passing through Customs are genuine or counterfeit. Recordal of IP rights also facilitates the process of commencing Customs enforcement proceedings.

Given that the recordal of IP rights with GAC is free and straightforward, recording with GAC is recommended by the China IPR SME Helpdesk experts.
Continue reading “The Last (or First) Line of Defense: Using Customs to Protect your IPR in China” »