Copyright registration: the key to brand protection in China

January 9, 2014

If your intellectual property is not registered in China, it is extremely difficult to protect.

Many UK fashion brands have experienced trade mark problems in China. Burberry suffered recently in respect of the trade mark for its Haymarket check tartan pattern in China. It is not alone. Most famously Apple has experienced very expensive problems.

Often these problems result in years of wrangles at the Chinese Trade Mark Office ending in disappointment. This is normally as a result of a prior trade mark registration made by a third party before the brand was used in China. Or it can be because of a registration for goods that are dissimilar to the core protected goods. Alternatively there can be an issue over non-use of the trade mark as was the case with Burberry.

But there is a solution - namely copyright protection for stylised words, logos, and patterns.

Unlike the UK, copyright can be registered in China. This includes your logo and even a stylised word as well as any artistic work. This is a very useful alternative to trade mark protection. Copyright registration has the added advantage in that it can be used as evidence in disputes over infringement in China and so should be considered as an important aspect of your IPR strategy.

How it works

Registration of copyright is voluntary. It can be done provided you own the copyright in your logo or stylised word. It requires the filing of a declaration and supporting documents. From filing to registration should not take longer than a couple of months - much quicker than applying to register a trade mark in China.

How we can help

We can help by arranging for a copyright filing to be made through our local agents.

This route to protection is in addition to any protection afforded by the new Chinese trade mark law

There have been recent changes to Chinese trade mark laws to make it easier for brand owners to apply to register their marks in China. It is, however, not clear in practice how much easier it will be to protect a brand that has already been registered by a third party. Whilst brand owners should benefit from the changes, registration of copyright provides protection here and now.

No fashion brand thinking about the Chinese market should do so without registering its copyright in its stylised words or logos.


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