First Step to Protect Your Trademark in China: Be First to File

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on September 13, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you do any type of business in China, trademarks should be on your mind.

Chinese trademark protection can actually afford companies some security when doing business abroad. And, even companies that only manufacture in China should consider registering their trademarks.

The first step to trademark protection is simple. Register your trademark.

China is a first-to-register country. Your trademark might be a globally well-known brand, but unless you file it first your company's reputation means very little to an enforcing Chinese court.

What does it mean to be a first-to-register country? Essentially, the trademark applications that are filed first will be granted protection. But, if two or more people file trademark applications for the same mark at the same time, the Trademark Office will grant the rights to whoever is the earliest user of the mark, according to Unitalen Attorneys at Law.

And, only Chinese-registered trademarks can be protected. So, either you file directly with the Chinese Trademark Office, or you need to have your trademark approved by the Trademark Office if you've extended trademark protection to China through the Madrid Protocol.

Businesses should be advised of the importance of trademarks. In fact, some companies in China have been known to register trademarks of well-known brands, only to turn around and re-sell companies their own trademarks at a highly increased price, according to the China Law Blog.

And, once somebody has your business' trademark, they can enforce their trademark rights over your goods and stop them from leaving the Chinese border, says the China Law Blog.

So, regardless if what kind of business your company is doing in China, it should consider trademarks. And, it should register them quickly. Companies should also be advised to employ some native Mandarin speakers, according to the China Law Blog. Trademarks can be in English or Chinese, so registering iterations of your brand name in both languages might offer the most brand protection.

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