China’s Great Leap Forward with Intellectual Property (IP).

A former client of mine sent me an email a couple of weeks ago asking me to help him with his trademark application in China. He applied for a trademark in China last year and he is just getting the results of his application now. But that is par for the course in China with trademark registrations, the process easily taking upwards of a year. This may sound like a long time but it really is not because the trademark bureau has to search quite a few filings to make sure there are not similar trademarks. China has the largest patent office in the world in terms of how many patent applications it receives per year, well over 500,000, and I imagine trademark applications are just as many.

The result of my client’s application was that some of his product has been approved and some of it has not. It seems there is a similar trade name on the market in China that the Trademark Bureau felt too closely resembled my client’s tradename. I looked at the report from the Trademark Bureau and I can see where they might have a problem with my client’s tradename. The law firm in Beijing that is handling my clients application said he could appeal if he wanted. But my client seems reluctant to spend more time and money on this. My advice to him was to consult an English speaking lawyer in the US or Canada as language seems to have been a bit of an obstacle in his correspondence with the law firm in Beijing. Although undecided about what to do, he says he is glad he has gone through this exercise and has acted in good faith to protect his name in China. I agree.

But I am impressed how far China has come in terms of protecting Intellectual Property. China’s first trademark law was implemented in the early 1950s but it was more a law in name than in practice given the communal nature of post revolutionary Chinese society and the suspension of many commercial laws during the Cultural Revolution. With the opening of China in the early 1980s the Chinese Government saw fit to establish a new Trademark Law and they did so in 1982. That law has been revised three times since, most recently this past May. It is evident that the Chinese Government, facing severe criticism from overseas firms doing business in China, has identified a need to catch up to international Patent and Trademark standards, and I at least see my client’s application as one example that they are doing a pretty good job of it. It is pretty amazing when you consider that 30 years ago trademarks and patents meant next to nothing in China. Now they are protected.

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