China Trademarks: What’s Your Chinese Company Name?

When preparing a client’s China trademark application, one of the questions I must ask is if the company has a Chinese name. Most of the time the company does not have a Chinese name. At that time I will indicate that a Chinese name must be chosen, and that we can help them come up with one.

At this stage, many clients say, “perfect,” and we move on. Some clients, however, express concern, because they know that it is important to choose a Chinese name carefully (and yes it is!) – yet haven’t gotten around to it.

In these cases, I confirm that, yes, it is important to choose Chinese names carefully – but that they will not in any be bound to the name they choose for a trademark registration. Those Chinese names are only used for internal purposes only by China’s trademark office.

This said, I recommend being at least a bit careful with the name chosen. No one wants a trademark certificate with swear words, or double entendre, or the latest codeword to describe Xi Jinping or the Central Government. This is why I entrust the creation of the name to native speakers who I trust, who usually speak Cantonese as well as Mandarin (for a little added insurance). If the client provides the name, I run it past these native speakers, just in case.

Again, the company is not bound to use the name on the trademark certificate. However, for the sake of consistency, I recommend using the same Chinese name on all official documents.

For a client that’s not really facing the public in China, it’s easy enough to choose an adequate name at the trademark registration stage. However, for companies for whom Chinese-language branding is important, more thought may need to be put into it (not to mention possibly consulting branding specialists). In those cases, the urgency of registering the trademark usually offsets any name inconsistency. And remember, there is almost always an urgency when it comes to registering trademarks in China, especially if they are a client’s first registrations in the country.

Bottom line: Don’t sweat it (too much) when it comes to choosing a Chinese name for use in your trademark application. But you definitely have to choose carefully when it comes to names that will be use to market your products to the Chinese public.