Trademark registration in China is a crucial step for businesses looking to protect their intellectual property rights in the world’s second-largest economy. However, the process can be quite complex and navigating the Chinese legal system can be challenging.
In this article, we will provide an overview of what you need to know about registering a trademark in China, including the application process, requirements, and potential pitfalls to watch out for.
What can be registered as a trademark in China?
Any designation that can be used to distinguish the goods or services of certain entity or company from those of others may be registered as a trademark. This means, a wide range of symbols, logos, words, and even colors can be registered as a trademark.
A trademark must be distinctive and must not be similar to any existing marks that are already registered or pending registration. In addition, it must not be in violation of any existing laws or regulations.
A trademark can be:
- individual (registered to a specific IP right holder),
- collective (registered to a group of persons),
- certification (used to mark certified goods/services),
- well-known (widely known within the country).
To register a trademark you need to determine the class of your goods or services in accordance with the International Classification of Goods and Services. Here you can view a catalog of available classes of goods and services on the Chinese market.
It is also possible to file a multi-class application, which means your trademark can be attributed to more than one class. However, an extra fee should be paid for each additional class. The basic fee for each class covers 10 goods or services. An additional fee is payable for each good or service.
Why can you be refused to register a trademark in China?
The Chinese IP regulations stipulate the following criteria for trademark eligibility:
Relative grounds for refusal. There are identical or similar trademarks or applications with earlier priority.
Absolute grounds for refusal. The following trademarks cannot be registered:
- Consisting only of a common name and/or graphic image;
- Consisting only of indications on quality, composition, functions, purpose, weight, quantity and other characteristics of goods;
- Reproducing or imitating a well-known brand for similar goods/services that is not registered in the PRC;
- Reproducing or imitating a well-known brand for other goods/services which is registered in the PRC, but may be misleading;
- Similar to the state name of the PRC or its state symbols (emblem, flag, insignia, etc.)
- Similar to state names of foreign countries, state flags, military flags, unless the government of a given state grants consent to registration;
- Similar to names, flags, emblems of intergovernmental international organizations, except for cases of getting consent from these organizations or if there’s no possible misleading of the public as to ownership of the trademark;
- Similar to an official mark or seal impression, which shows the exercise of control or granting of a guarantee, except for those permitted;
- Similar to the names and symbols of the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations;
- Infringing upon national dignity;
- Exaggeratedly advertising the quality of goods or misleading;
- Detrimental to the socialist morals or otherwise adversely affecting the people of the PRC;
- Identical to the names of administrative units at least at the county level and well-known foreign geographical names.
China trademark registration process
The trademark registration process in China begins with the filing of an application with the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). The application must include detailed information about the trademark, such as a clear representation of the mark, the classes of goods and services it applies to, and the applicant’s contact information. You can find the application form here.
Once the application is received, it undergoes a formal verification process to ensure that it meets all the necessary requirements. The formal verification lasts for 7 days, and if the application passes, it moves on to substantive examination, where the CNIPA reviews the application to ensure that it does not infringe on any existing trademarks or conflict with any existing laws or regulations. This stage lasts for approximately 1 month.
After the examination, if the application is deemed to be in compliance with all the requirements, it is published in the China Trademark Gazette, and any interested person can file an objection within 3 months. If no opposition is filed, the trademark is registered and a registration certificate is issued to the applicant.
Once registered, the trademark is protected for a period of ten years, and it can be renewed indefinitely for ten-year periods as long as the renewal application is submitted within 12 months prior to the expiration date. An additional period of 6 months is granted when a renewal is requested. If the application is not submitted within the extended period, the trademark is cancelled. The trademark can also be cancelled if it has not been used for a period of 3 years from the date of registration.
Documents required for the registration of a trademark in China
The following documents are typically required for the registration of a trademark in China:
- Application (including the image representing the trademark, list of classes according to the International Classification of Goods and Services and information about the applicant);
- The document proving the identity of the applicant, along with its translation into Chinese. The applicant can be a private or legal entity. There may be more than one applicant;
- Copy of power of attorney (when filing through a representative);
- Copy of priority application (if applicable);
- Other supporting documents (depending on the specific circumstances, the CNIPA may require additional documents, such as a certificate of incorporation, a business license, or a certificate of trademark registration from another country.)
When claiming priority, a certified copy of the priority document and its translation into Chinese should be submitted within 3 months.
Trademark opposition in China
If the application successfully passes the evaluation process, it’s published to the general public. An opposition claim may be filed within 3 months by any interested person to be considered by the Trademark Office.
In case an objection to the trademark is filed, the Trademark Office is obliged to obtain a statement of the situation and the arguments of the protester, and issue a decision after examination and verification.
If any party disagrees with this decision, it is allowed to apply to the Expert Commission for reconsideration within 15 days of receipt of notification of the decision. The Expert Commission shall render a resolution and notify the parties thereof.
In case of disagreement with the decision of the Expert Commission, a party is allowed to file an application to the People’s Court within 30 days from the receipt of the notification. The People’s Court will notify the opposing party to participate in the process.
The decision concerning the protest shall become effective unless either party has filed an application for reconsideration of the protest by the Board of Examiners after the decision of the Trademark Office or has filed an application with the People’s Court after the decision of the Board of Examiners.
If the decision is taken to recognize the protest as insolvent, the trademark is approved and registered, a certificate is issued, and an official announcement about it is published. If the decision is made to recognize the protest as grounded, the trademark is not registered.
China trademark registration costs
Government fees of trademark registration in China
|Submission of a trademark application:|
|Shortening of the list of goods/services in each class||250 RMB|
|Priority filing||free of charge|
|Third party objection for each class||500 RMB|
|Objection to refusal for each class||750 RMB|
The prices for registering a trademark in China via the iPNOTE platform start from as low as $300, which covers all government fees as well as document preparation. Find the best trademark attorney on iPNOTE.
The trademark registration process in China can be lengthy, taking from several months to a couple of years to complete. Additionally, the requirements for registration can be quite strict and the process can be expensive. Therefore, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the process and the requirements before filing an application. It’s also advisable to seek professional guidance and assistance from a lawyer or trademark attorney to ensure a smooth and successful registration process.
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Take a look at our directory of trademark attorneys in China.
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