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Business in China: Trademark registration

China's international obligations in trademark registration.

China contributes to standardize common procedures and conditions for worldwide trademark protection.
Documents such as "Detailed Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services" determines 42 different categories which classifies all possible products and services, "Madrid rules of international trade marks registration“ which standardize the format for the registration of trademark in different countries,  and "Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property" which is an agreement among participants on the protection of the registered trademarks rights on equal conditions.

In accordance with the protocol of accession to the WTO, China must also bring its domestic legislation into conformity with international standards. According to the agreement, China is developing amendments to its legal and regulatory acts relating to the protection of intellectual property rights.
It is agreed that China undertakes to act in accordance with the agreements on measures to protect intellectual property and trade dispute resolution. The above-mentioned facts make China a real member of the international community with obligations to protect the rights of trademark owners from all around the world.

What is the purpose of trademark registration in China if I have already registered it in my country?

There are some criteria to define whether your trademark is under international protection. Most importantly your business is conducted in more than 5 countries and therefore this trademark or firm is taken as an international symbol.  For example, “Red Cook restaurants” is registered as a trademark in Texas, but the trademark owner is not entitled to the right for claiming this name to be restrained in Shanghai unless it can be prove that “Red Cook “is a registered name of worldwide restaurants and the same trademark is used for restaurant without the authorization of the trademark owner.

It would be better to register the trademark in each country where products and goods are sold under the trademark. There is a special procedure for international trademarks called “Priority registration” which allows applying for trademark registration in any other countries in 6 months after registering it in some countries.
In this scenario, any submitted applications for registration of the same trademark will be terminated if “priority registration” for the same trademark, which takes place in other countries, is submitted during 6 months after the opponent application.

Is it possible to register a name only?

Yes, it is possible, but in this case the name will exist as some design or name. Usually a trade mark includes a name and a logotype registered together. “I have registered a company in Shanghai. Is my company name protected?” No, it’s not.
Administration of Commerce and Industry handles registration of business units, names of companies, and other business units (and only the name) at the regional level. Household units in China are always registered under names that include the location of the unit as part of its official name.

Registration procedure

The procedure of trademark registration is simple and inexpensive. Define which category of products and services refers your company classes of goods and services is well structured so it can be easily select the desired category), then apply trade name registration which can include both logotype and company name.
Registration fee depends on the category of products (services). Upon receipt of your application, Central Bureau of Trademarks of Beijing will issue a receipt after conducting a search of the trademarks records to see if the same or similar trade name has already been registered or been applied for by another trader in respect of the same or similar class of goods and services.

Some words and graphic pictures cannot be used for a trade name, for example the word “China” or names of other states or geographical places, or some common notions, etc. Upon finishing registration your trade name will become your intellectual property (under chosen category). For example, “Red Cook Restaurant” in Shanghai registered its trade mark under the category “restaurant” in China. However, using the same trade name “Red cook” for a box of matches in China is not illegal because it is not registered under the category ” flammable materials and luminescent materials.

The whole application process can take 12 months from receipt of application to registration. In case your trade name is copied during the application process, a warning letter can be issued that the given name is under application process and request to stop the possible infringement of your trade name. Further action can be taken if infringement is not stopped and losses are calculated after trade mark registration starting from the day of the infringement. .  

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