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How do you get a trademark registration in China?
The first-to-file principle is used in China. This means that the person who first registers the trademark also obtains the rights to this trademark. Even if this brand is not used. Declarations of intent are not necessary in China. If your trademark is registered, the Chinese entrepreneur becomes the owner of the right.
For that reason, it is therefore recommended to opt for trademark registration. This way you prevent someone else from running off with your brand. By making an investment in trademark registration now, you ensure that these problems are spared in the future and that a market of nearly 1.4 billion consumers is open to you in the future.
With trademark registration in China you obtain the right to a trademark. Registration can be done in two ways. The first way is to submit an application to the CTMO, the China Trade Mark Office. You do this through a qualified trademark agent. You can arrange a national Chinese trademark registration immediately.
A second way to achieve a Chinese trademark registration is through an international registration in which China is one of the selected countries. For international trademark registration you need a basic registration, i.e. a Benelux trademark registration or a European Union trademark registration. Only after completing this procedure can your application be forwarded to China.
What is the duration of a trademark in China?
A Chinese trademark is protected for ten years. You can apply for an extension of your trademark from up to 6 months before the expiry date to extend the validity for another ten years. In principal, a brand can be protected indefinitely if it is extended within the set time period.
If you do not register before the expiry date, the delai de grace will enter into force. This is a sort of grace period in which you still get the chance to renew your trademark. If you do not renew within this period, the trademark expires and all of your rights really are gone. It is not possible to restore this.
The differences between national and international registration
There are some differences between Chinese national registration and international registration. In addition to having to apply for a basic registration for an international listing first, it is also true that the latter procedure usually takes longer. A national trademark application in China only can be processed directly. However, this registration cannot be expanded in the future, while an international registration offers the possibility to add other countries at a later date.
Realizing global trademark registration in one go is not an option. This would cost a lot of money and by no means every entrepreneur has the necessary budget. The existing treaties are then more attractive for registering a trademark; you can obtain a trademark registration for several countries at the same time.
Classification by means of the Nice classification
The Chinese trademark classification system is based on the Nice classification, although some adjustments have been made by China. The 45 classes (34 for products and 11 for services) are divided into sub-classes by the country. This makes it even more difficult for the person submitting the application for trademark registration in China – if he would do this alone.
Review by the CTMO
When you have submitted your application for trademark registration in China at a national level, the China Trade Mark Office (CTMO) will assess it. After a period of approximately fifteen to thirty days, you will receive an official confirmation, after which the CTMO will take approximately eight months to conduct further investigations. If this goes according to plan, a provisional publication will be released within nine months of the day of the application. This is followed by an objection period of three months. If no objection is raised by third parties, you will have trademark registration in China one year after your application.
What should you do before submitting an application for trademark registration?
Before you can submit the application for trademark registration in China, you go through a process that consists of five different steps. These steps are as follows:
- Doing research for the trademark using the search engine on the website of the CTMO.
- Determine how to design the trademark: verbatim, figurative or a combination of both.
- Place your goods or services in the appropriate classes according to the Nice classification
- Confirming your name and address, in both English and Chinese
- Preparing the necessary documents (application form, power of attorney from your lawyer and company certificates. In the latter case, a copy of the passport applies to individual applicants).
When all documents are in order, your trademark is ready to be submitted.
What if you don't register your trademark?
With a decision not to register a trademark in China, you run a great risk of cutting yourself in the thick of things. Namely, there are Chinese individuals and companies who deliberately register the names of Western companies and entrepreneurs. As soon as they have the trademark registration of your trademark, your goods and services can then be banned from the Chinese market. It is very complicated to get your brand back, especially if the Chinese entrepreneur has already started selling products under the relevant brand name. Some Chinese entrepreneurs only register the trademark to earn money from the sale. We also call this “bad faith trademark registrations”.
What are the costs of trademark registration in China?
The cost of trademark aplication in China is dependent on the number of classifications that is relevant to the trademark. Most fall into classes 1 to 3, but it is very well possible to get the protection in all of classes 1 through 45 of the Nice classification.