STEPS TO REGISTER A TRADEMARK IN CHINA
Conduct a preliminary search of the intended trademark to ensure the mark or a similar mark has not already been registered.
2. Choose a Chinese Name
It is required to have an associated Chinese name for the applicant's name. It is highly recommended an appropriate and representative name is chosen to avoid unflattering or derogatory meanings or sounds that represent your brand in Chinese. This is even more important if you plan to sell your brand in China. Your attorney or agent in China can help select a Chinese name but be sure they explain the meaning and connotation of the name before approving.
3. Trademark Compliance
Ensure your trademark complies with four (4) primary requirements for registration in China. This is an important step to reduce the risk of rejection from the Trade Office of CNIPA (CHINA NATIONAL INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ADMINISTRATION).
It must be legal
It must not be functional
It must be distinctive
It must be available
There are a total of 45 classifications. We recommend using the NCL Classification (Nice Convention) for reference. Classification and sub-classification of the specified goods or services will be categorised based on CNIPA's (China National IP Administration) "Chinese Classification Manual" for China national filing. This is essentially an overlay of the NICE Classification. Both systems use the same Classes but there are variations and further sub-classifications in CNIPA's system. Currently, there is no official translation of the "Chinese Classification Manual" into other languages.
The Trademark application will be filed with CNIPA by an attorney or IP agent via submission of an application form and documents or via e-filing.
6. Formality Examination
Upon receiving a trademark application, the CNIPA will first conduct the formality check on applicant name, address, nationality, POA (Power of Attorney) and other basic information, and then examine whether the description of goods or services meets the requirements under the Chinese Classification Guide of Goods and Services. Where the application documents meet the formality requirement, the CNIPA will issue an Official Filing Receipt on which the application number will be allocated. If the filing documents fail to satisfy the formality criterion, the CNIPA will issue an office action requiring the application to amend the application within 30 days to bring it into conformity with the CNIPA’s requirements.
7. Substantive Examination
After the CNIPA issues the Official Filing Receipt, the application will enter the Substantive examination stage, which may take up to 9 months. The CNIPA will examine whether an application for registration of a trademark satisfies the requirements imposed by the PRC Trademark Laws and Regulations. If the trademark does not meet the eligibility requirements for registration, the CNIPA will deny the application. The applicant has the right to appeal to the TRAB (Trademark Review and Adjudication Board) against the CNIPA’s refusal and has 15 days to respond. Where the Substantive examination is passed a preliminary approval will be issued.
8. Publication Period
Upon receiving preliminary approval, the CNIPA will publicize the trademark for public review. During this time, anyone may oppose the published trademark in accordance with the PRC Trademark Laws. If no opposition is raised within the three-month publication period, the trademark application will mature into full registration. The CNIPA will issue the Trademark Registration Certificate within the next one to two months.
9. Issuance of Registration Certificate
A registered trademark will be valid for 10 years and can be renewed thereafter. The renewal should be filed within 12 months before the expiration. It is also important to note, if a trademark is not used for a period of 3 years without good reasons, anyone could petition the CNIPA to revoke the registered trademark.