Don’t wait until you are ready to enter the market before thinking about protecting your IP in China.
Intellectual property protection in China continues to be an uphill battle for many traders. Unless you are first in time to file, China is a market where it can be difficult to stake your claim over your intellectual property rights, and trade marks in particular. In addition to the sheer number of trade marks applications being filed in China (more than 2 million have been filed so far in 2015 which is an increase of 37% from 2014), trade mark poachers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tactics to exploit third party intellectual property rights.
One area of intellectual property which can help bolster your existing trade mark protection, or which may help you to reclaim your trade marks from poachers, is copyright. So here are some things to know about copyright in China:
You can register it
Unlike in Australia where copyright is asserted, in China it is possible to register copyright by applying to the National Copyright Administration Office. The process is a lot faster than trade mark registration and usually takes around one month from start to finish. It is also usually cheaper than trade mark registration.
It covers certain works only
Like in Australia, copyright only covers literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. To assist in protecting trade marks, it is therefore only likely to be helpful to protect logo marks and not plain word marks i.e. word marks that don’t have any embellishment.
It can help protect your trade mark from poachers
For trade marks that have already been registered by trade mark poachers, copyright protection can assist in proving that the true owner of the mark is in fact the real author and user of the trade mark. Copyright registration can be used as evidence of ownership in a trademark opposition or cancellation against the trade mark poacher’s trade mark application/registration.
Protection is broader
Unlike trade mark registration, which is limited to particular classes of goods or services on filing, copyright protection can provide protection against unauthorised use of a copyright work in relation to any goods or services.
The golden rule in China remains that the early bird gets the worm! Don’t wait until you are ready to enter the market before thinking about protecting your intellectual property in China - because poachers will probably beat you to it.