Have you ever thought about registering your trademark? In most countries, patent protections and copyrights aren’t the only way to protect your fashion designs. If you’ve never registered your trademark, why not?
- It’s cheap.
- It’s effective.
- Since a registered trademark requires a registered copyright before it can go into effect, it can provide protections to not only artwork and publications, but also websites, computer programs, catalogs and promotional materials, and manuals for using products or machines.
Many younger fashion brands choose to manufacture their clothing in China due to the affordable cost of production. That’s why in this blog, we’re focusing specifically on how to register a trademark for a Made in China fashion brand, and what protections a Chinese trademark provides. Let’s get started.
How to Register for a Copyright in China
Like we mention above, in China, you need to hold a copyright for your brand before you can register for its trademark.
You can register a copyright at the Center for the Protection of Copyright in Beijing or by submitting an online application. The wait period once you do is normally just one month, and if recognized, your copyright guarantees you 50 years of protection. This means that once you have the copyright, you can sue any copycats in the Chinese courts and force them to remove their imitations from market.
Why Registering Your Trademark in China Matters
While China has introduced some legislation on "brand use", it doesn’t offer much protection to a legitimate brand owner. Unfortunately, if someone does decide to use your brand name in a way that you haven’t intended and/or without your permission, it’s incredibly difficult to pursue a case in the Chinese court. You might be able to negotiate a good deal with the trademark registrant to resolve the issue as quickly as possible – or not. This situation can get even more complicated if the brand in question has already been used commercially.
In China, trademark protections function like those in other countries. If you register your trademark in China, no one else can come in and register it internationally. That matters because trademark squatting, the act of trademarking an in-market brand you don’t own by registering it first, is quite common. Regardless of who created the brand, when it comes to trademarking a brand it matters who was “first to file”. That’s why, if you’re manufacturing your brand in China, we recommend trademarking it there as quickly as possible, whether or not you sell there.
How to Trademark Your Brand in China
Start the trademark process in China when you’re actually IN China at the National Registration System, or if you must, through the international system. If you go the international route, you’ll need an official agent to physically represent you in China. The trademark authorities will evaluate your claim on three criteria:
- How correct and formal your application is
- How distinctive your the mark is
- Whether or not there’s an identical or similar trademark that pre-exists yours.
If the committee approves your application, they will publish your claim in the Trademark Gazette so that anyone who might contest your claim to trademark has the chance to present their case.
Prior to submitting your application for trademark, we recommend that you do your homework to make sure that no record of a similar or identical mark to the one you’re claiming exists in any database. Once you submit your application and while you await approval, we recommend that you continue to check trademark databases to make sure that no new claims have come in to contest the ownership of your brand mark.
The whole trademark evaluation process lasts about 12 months. Once you’re approved, your trademark protections last for 10 years, but you can always renew them for another 10.
However, keep in mind that these protections are “use it or lose it”. If you don’t use your registered trademark anywhere, in any Chinese territory, in the three years following your registration approval, you can have your trademark claim revoked.
Can You Trademark in China?
Your brand must meet a minimum criteria to qualify for trademark registration in China:
- Its graphics must be distinguishable from other brands. This includes the words, images, letters, symbols, and colors involved in the mark.
- It must be unregistered.
- It must not include national Chinese symbols or emblems or the names of cities or local organizations.
Aside from this minimum, you must also take care to:
- Register for the correct product category, ie. "accessories" or "clothing".
- Register your brand in both the local language and the Latin characters.
- Identify a singular translation for your brand name. Even Coca Cola can be transcribed in Chinese many ways and with different characters. It's up to Coke to choose one and make it official.
The Bottom Line
Protecting the integrity of your brand and products in China, or wherever you sell and manufacture, is important. These are your intellectual property rights, but if you don’t pursue registering them, you have almost no recourse if someone attempts to profit off your brand or designs.
Even once you’ve registered your trademark, we advise performing regular searches on national and international B2B and B2C e-commerce sites to check for improper use of your trademark or registered clothing designs. If you discover violations of your trademark or copyright, you have the right to take action by either bringing your case to the distribution platform to have them remove the imitation and/or taking the violator in court.
Once you register your copyright and trademark in China, we also recommend that you register them at the General Administration of Customs, US Customs, and in the EU. These offices can help police your intellectual property for you by seizing any imitations, and taken together, can give you the maximum global protection against imitators.
Explore what it's like to manufacture your brand in Italy.