In its post, Why I Should Stop Reading IP Case Summaries in the News [link no longer exists], China Hearsay does a great job attacking a Xinhua news story on what appears to have been a legal victory by Apple Computer in a trademark lawsuit.
China Hearsay (written by a crackerjack China IP lawyer) is justifiably ticked off about the article’s misstatements and vagueness, and in attacking the article, does a great job setting out some key China trademark law basics.
First, one does not just “register a trademark” in China. One must register one’s trademark in a particular category or categories. This matters. Western companies frequently complain of someone having infringed on “their trademark” in China, when in fact there has been no infringement because the Western company actually never registered a trademark in the particular category in which the allegedly infringing product belongs.
Second, unlike patents, China trademarks do not necessarily expire; one can easily renew them every ten years simply by paying a fee.
Where China Hearsay gets it wrong is to allow himself to get worked into such a lather by the media getting China law wrong. I am just so past that.
A couple years ago, I read two articles in one day stating how Chinese companies had “stolen” the trademarks of American companies. The facts in the articles did not ring true so I called the two companies and asked them if they had registered their trademarks in China. Neither had. Turns out they were both advancing the morale boosting, but legally worthless argument that US trademarks should extend around the world.
In other words, both of these companies’ problems stemmed from their own failure to secure a trademark in China, not from anyone having stolen their trademarks in China.
Bottom Line: If you do not want anyone in China using your brand name or your logo or your slogan, you must secure a China trademark for those things because without one, you have nothing to protect. It is that simple.