Intellectual property rights in China - 10 Issues to Consider


By Foot Anstey

Paul Cox, partner and head of our intellectual property team gives 10 issues to consider to protect their intellectual property rights in China.

Oscar Wilde once said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and similar sayings are often repeated in China. One such saying comes from Shanghai which is that "we can copy everything except your mother".  

There have been several high profile cases where well-known companies have had their intellectual property rights acquired by third parties in China, which has led to a variety of problems in exporting products from the country or selling their own products in China.  Most recently, a Beijing court ruled that a small leather accessories maker can use the iPhone name on certain leather accessories sold in the country and there is nothing Apple can do to prevent this third party from using the name. The reason for this is that the third party held a trade mark registration for iPhone covering leather and imitation leather goods.

In addition, there is the flood of counterfeit products from China which causes significant issues for brand owners in Europe not to mention the various look-a-like shops branded as Tommy Welai (Tommy Hilfiger) or shops with an upside down Nike "Swoosh" for example.    

So, what should you do to protect your intellectual property rights in China?

"We see so many issues arising in China which is mainly the result of companies not taking proactive steps to protect their brand in that country.  Brands need to manage and review their strategy in China regularly and ensure that they take sufficient steps to minimise any disruption to their business plans".  
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