Protecting Trademarks in China

The year of the horse could usher in better opportunities to protect brand integrity when new trademark law is introduced in China in May.

As Australia’s largest trading partner, the importance of the People’s Republic of China to the Australian economy is beyond dispute. Yet despite long-standing Sino-Australian relations and a renewed eagerness on the part of Australian business to engage with the Chinese market, many Australian businesses fail to take the essential steps required to protect their trademark rights in China.

On 1 May 2014, China’s new trademark law (NTL) came into force. There are several anticipated changes with which businesses should familiarise themselves, as well as some key branding considerations when protecting trademarks in China.

For businesses based outside China, conventional wisdom suggests that seeking trademark protection and then attempting to enforce any resulting rights can be a protracted and often frustrating experience. Significant delays in examination, opposition, appeal, and a trademarks regime that has often been out of step with evolving global trademark law and practice has meant many international businesses have simply deferred seeking trademark protection in China.

That said, the 30 August 2013 announcement that the NTL of the People’s Republic of China would come into force on 1 May 2014 marked an important step for China. The advent of the long-awaited NTL seeks to redress many of the perennial concerns of international brand owners, including improving the efficiency of the application and opposition practice and procedure, significantly increasing fines against infringers, and introducing the concept of an application being made in good faith.

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