LEGAL ASPECTS OF DOING BUSINESS IN CHINA
1st thing you should know: Intellectual Property
Since the implement of the “Open-Door Policy” and admittance of WTO, China has been trying its best to improve the intellectual property protection to reach international standards. Until May 2012, China has joined 17 international IPR protection conventions. Among them, the most important ones include Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO Convention, signed in 1980), Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention, signed in 1992), Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Property (Paris Convention, signed in 1984) and Agreement on Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS, signed in 2001). Meanwhile, joining the abovementioned conventions also means to promise to abide by regulations of other conventions that are quoted by the aforesaid conventions. For example, Art. 4 of WIPO Convention regulated that: “WIPO Convention shall perform the administrative tasks of the Paris Union, the Special Unions established in relation with that Union, and the Berne Union”.
On May 1st, 2014, the new Trademark Law of the PRC adopted on 30th August 2013 has come into effect. The new trademark law provided more protections channels for the trademark owners.
In general, legislation for IPR protection has developed and met the international standards in China. The laws and regulations of IPR protections can be divided into three categories: Trademark Protection, Copyright Protection and Patent Protection.
Now, Let's talk about how to get your IPR well protected
Step 1: Register a Trademark – More Convenient for Applicants
Any sign capable of distinguishing the goods can be registered as trademark in China and can be protected by the Chinese trademark laws and regulations. According to the new trademark law, registered trademarks are trademarks approved to be registered by the Trademark Office, including goods trademarks, service trademarks, collective marks, and certification marks.
In China, any sign capable of distinguishing the goods of a natural person, a legal person, or any other organization from those of others, including but not limited to word, design, letter, numeral, three-dimensional symbol, combination of colors, and sound, as well as a combination of the above, may serve as a trademark for registration application. It is noted that the new law has expanded the scope of trademark from “any visual mark” to “visual or non-visual mark like sound”. Therefore, you can register a unique "sound" like Nokia’s famous ringtone as a trademark for your goods in China now.
Step 2: Specific Procedures of Trademark Registration
For foreigners, it is noteworthy that a foreign national or a foreign enterprise who intends to apply for trademark registration or handle other trademark-related matters in China shall authorize a legally formed trademark agency to do it. The specific procedures are as follows.
To file an application for registration
According to the new trademark law, the applicant shall file an application for registration with class and designation of goods on which the trademark is to be used, and the applicant has the right to apply for registration of the same trademark on goods of different classes in a single application. The applications may be filed in written form or in data message form (e-filing).
Examination and approval by the Trademark Office
The Trademark Office shall exam the application and shall decide within the following time limits regulated by the new trademark law. After registration, as the trademark owner, you should use your trademark properly; otherwise, any party may have the right to apply for revoke of your trademark which is duly registered.