To obtain trademark protection in China, an application for a China trademark can be filed through the national registration system or the international registration system. For a national trademark application in China, an application has to be filed before the China Trademark Office by an officially recognized agent.
For the international registration, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has provided a platform for international registrations among members of the so called “Madrid Agreement”. China is a member of this agreement, and therefore it’s possible to file an application for a China trademark using the international registration system.
The trademark registration system in China strictly follows the first to file system. Generally speaking, the first applicant who files a China trademark application will get the trademark registration in China. This system, therefore, allows the controversial issue so called “Trademark Squatting” to be legally done under China trademark law. Under the current system, some Chinese entrepreneurs have successfully registered world-class brand names and well-known celebrity names (for example : Michael Jordan, Jeremy Lin, Hermes, Chivas) and, later, attempted to sell (both through negotiation and legal action) the China trademark to the brand owner/ celebrities at an incredibly high price. In order to lower the risk, it is advisable to file a China trademark application as soon as possible to prevent “Trademark Squatting”.
An international applicant needs an official agent as a representative to file a Trademark application in China. Once the application has been accepted, the authority will examine the China trademark application thoroughly. These examinations include a formality examination, a distinctiveness examination and a search for prior registered China trademark. Once the authority’s requirements have been fulfilled and all required documents have been submitted, the China trademark application will be published in the Trademark Gazette for opposition purpose. This opposition period lasts 3 months starting from the publication date. During the opposition period, any third party who has a prior right could oppose the registration. Therefore, before filing a China trademark application, a proper search for prior China trademarks is advisable (the search will show the risk of refusal and possible opposition in advance which will greatly help to decide a further step). The duration of a China trademark registration is 10 years from the date of registration and can be renewed for periods of 10 years.
After obtaining a China trademark, the trademark owner has to use the trademark inside the territory of China. If the China trademark has not been used within 3 years from the registration date or ,later, has not been used for 3 consecutive years, the China trademark may be subject to cancelation.
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