China’s New Trademark Law to Come Into Effect May 1

Posted by Reading Time: 4 minutes

BEIJING – On August 30, 2013, China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) promulgated the “Decision on Amending the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China (Presidential Decree No. 8, hereinafter referred to as the ‘Decision’).” Although China holds the world’s largest number of registered trademarks, infringement and piracy remain widespread.

Revisions to the Trademark Law were made in a move to further strengthen the legal protection of trademarks and intellectual property. Efficiency, protection and punishment are three key words emphasized in the new law, which comes into effect on May 1, 2014.

Key points in the new Trademark Law are as follows:

Limited Examination Periods

In response to complaints of an overly-long procedure for trademark prosecution, the new Trademark Law specifies the time periods for completing a trademark registration, review and objection procedure.

  • The trademark bureau should complete examination of trademark registration applications within nine months from the date of receipt of the relevant application documents.
  • If an applicant wishes to appeal the denial of an application, he/she should apply to the trademark review and adjudication board for review within 15 days. The review should be concluded within nine months; a three-month extension is permissible under special circumstances.
  • If an objection is raised against a trademark that has been preliminarily approved for publication, the trademark bureau should verify the claims of both parties and make a decision on whether to grant the trademark registration within 12 months; a six-month extension is permissible under special circumstances.

Inclusion of Audio Trademarks

The Decision stipulates that “any mark, including text, graphics, three-dimensional marks, color combinations and sound, etc., that is capable of differentiating the commodities of a natural person, legal person or any other organization from that of others, can be registered as a trademark. A combination of these elements may also be registered as a trademark.”

This is the first time that sounds have been permitted to be registered for trademark in China. Sounds can include mobile phone ring tones, and can be musical or non-musical (e.g., natural, human or animal sounds), or a combination of both.

RELATED: Choosing Your Trademark Name in China

Moreover, applicants for trademark registration can apply for the registration of a trademark for commodities in multiple categories using a single application. Previously, only one category was permitted per application. Application documents may be submitted in hard or digital format.

Protection for Well-Known Trademarks

The Decision stipulates that “well-known trademarks” are not honorary titles and shall be banned from use in the packaging, advertising and exhibition of products. Enterprises that use a well-known trademark in their business signs will be fined RMB 100,000. Further, in the course of handling trademark disputes, a determination of well-known trademark shall be conducted, as needed, to prohibit their misuse.

Protection for Unregistered Trademarks

The owners of unregistered trademark are entitled to prohibit others from registering their trademarks or using similar ones, especially if the applicant is aware of the existence of the trademark through a contractual or business relationship, or any other type of relationship with the owner. For malicious infringement upon the rights to an exclusive trademark, compensation is set at an amount not exceeding RMB 3 million.

Improvement of the Objection System

Previously, objections were permitted to be filed in the name of an unrelated third party to maintain the confidentiality of the objector’s identity. Now, to prohibit third parties from improperly profiting from objections, the new Trademark Law stipulates that only interested parties and stakeholders may file an objection, and emphasizes the importance of supporting evidence for the objection. A penalty applies to objections filed in bad faith that cause the trademark registrant to suffer losses.

Honesty and Trustworthiness

The Decision stipulates that trademark agencies should adopt the principles of honesty and trustworthiness, and notify the entrusting party if registration is not permitted. These principles shall also be applied to the procedure for trademark prosecution.

China’s Trademark Law was first adopted in 1982 and has been amended twice, in 1993 and 2001.

Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

Stay up to date with the latest business and investment trends in Asia by subscribing to our complimentary update service featuring news, commentary and regulatory insight.

Related Reading
Intellectual Property Rights in China (Second Edition)
From covering protocol for dealing with trade fairs, to the application processes for trademarks, patents, copyright and licensing, as well as dealing with infringements and enforcement, this book is a practical reference for those concerned with their IPR in China.

Annual Compliance, License Renewals & Audit Procedures
In this issue, we discuss annual compliance requirements for China foreign-invested entities (FIEs), with notes on regional differences and tips from experienced accountants and auditors. We detail the full audit processes for Representative Offices, Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises and Joint Ventures in China, as well as discuss the procedures for individual income tax filings for 2012 earned income by expatriates in China.

Doing Business in China
The China Briefing Business Guide to Doing Business in China is the definitive guide to one of the fastest growing economies in the world, providing a thorough and in-depth analysis of China, its history, key demographics and overviews of the major cities, provinces and autonomous regions highlighting business opportunities and infrastructure in place in each region. A comprehensive guide to investing in China is also included with information on FDI trends, business establishment procedures, economic zone information and labor and tax considerations.

Trade Mark Protection in Southeast Asia for SMEs – Registration and Trade Mark Search

US$60 Million Settlement Clinches iPad Trademark for Apple

Second Draft Amendment to China’s Trademark Law Sent to NPC for Review