How to protect a brand in China?

If you import goods from China under your company logo or name, you’ve probably wondered whether your brand is safe there. We constantly repeat that the protection of a brand in China is not only for the exporters who sell their products on the Chinese market. Do you manufacture goods in China and put your company name or logo on the product, packaging, or printed materials? You should also make sure to register your trademark in China. We discuss how to protect a brand in China.

Trademark registration in China – do I need to do it?

Many importers cooperating with China ask themselves this question. Unfortunately, companies that manufacture goods with their logo in Chinese factories often decide not to register their trademark in China. It’s probably because they’re unaware of the consequences of not assuring their trademark’s protection in China.

We’ve mentioned previously the “first to file” rule in Chinese law. On its base, a third-party beneficiary can register someone else’s trademark. Despite that, many companies consider the possibility of another person taking an interest in their brand and registering it as their own impossible. Unfortunately, at some point they may be unpleasantly surprised to find out that someone’s registered their logo. These are more and more commonly occurring cases.

It needs to be emphasized that based on the “first to file” rule, it doesn’t matter that your company’s been using the trademark first while the person who got rights to the logo in China hasn’t. In reality, until you register the name or logo in China, even if you’ve been using them, you don’t have the right to use them in China.

Moreover, some companies think that if they own rights to their brand within their own country, they’re automatically protected globally. Registration in China seems irrelevant to them, especially if they only import from China and don’t place their products on the Chinese market. They couldn’t be more wrong.

If you manufacture goods in China and your company name or logo are placed anywhere on the product, box, or manual – your brand appears in China and needs to be registered.

Sourcing in China and trademark protection

Naturally, you can manufacture in China without your trademark’s registration. Nevertheless, it’s a huge risk. Business law experts emphasize in unison that the problems associated with the lack of trademark protection in China are much more challenging to resolve rather than prevent. Some companies assume that since they’ve been importing without any issues so far, their brand is safe in China. Thus, they want to save money on the “unnecessary” registration. Sadly, it’s not a good approach.

If you don’t register your logo in China deliberately, you need to be aware that one day someone else can gain the right to your brand in China. It’s dangerous mainly because the new owner can report to the Chinese customs office and stop the products with your logo from leaving the country. The inability to ship the entirely manufactured and paid-for goods results in huge financial losses for the company. What are the implications of such a situation? If someone else owns the rights to your trademark in China, the fact that you’re using this trademark violates their rights.

Yes, as an importer, you violate their rights, not vice versa, because the trademark registration on the “first to file” rule’s base was carried out according to the law. It’s the other person who’s the trademark’s rightful owner, not you.

Why would someone else register my trademark?

Most often, the companies that claim your trademark demand a ransom for its retrieval. We’re talking about huge amounts of money that far surpass trademark registration costs in China. We’ve also encountered situations where rightful brand owners, based on an “agreement,” expect bribe payments with every shipment. In return, they don’t report the issue to the customs office. What’s more, in the case of export, it can occur that the trademark will be registered by unfair competition to hold you back from development on the Chinese market.

Trademark protection in China in the case of import

How an importer can protect their brand in China? It’s easy! Register your trademark in China as soon as possible. If you want to protect your brand in China, reach out to us, and we will comprehensively help you throughout the entire process. The registration is valid for 10 years within China, and during this time you don’t have to worry about any of the risks described above. We register your logo in classes relevant for your products or services according to the Nice Classification. The trademark registration is carried out in the national procedure without intermediaries. We encourage you to contact us!