3 Common Mistakes with Trademarks in China

common mistakes with trademark in china

What are the 3 most common mistakes made when registering a TM in China?

Common Mistake #1: Not realizing you can save money by combining all elements into a single image file and make a single TM application!

An image file, called a “specimen”, is used in the TM application. Provide your China lawyer with as many of the following item as possible, as they may be able to fit them all into 1 specimen and help you avoid extra costs associated with registering each element separately:

  • Brand name (in all applicable languages) in basic text
  • Brand name (in all applicable languages) in stylized/custom font (if applicable)
  • Logo
  • Slogan (in all applicable languages) in basic text
  • Slogan (in all applicable languages) in stylized/custom font (if applicable)

In theory, if a competitor uses any part or combination of parts found in this “specimen”, they will be in violation of your intellectual property rights.   An inexperienced (or perhaps unethical) lawyer may try to get you to pay for multiple applications when in reality, one application done right, can give you sufficient protection.

Common Mistake #2:  Submitting a logo in color

Most corporate logos are in certain color- the golden arches of McDonalds or Pepsi’s red white and blue.    However, if you submit your application in China in color, then there is a chance that your rights could be limited to only that color choice.   In an extreme case, it could mean that if your logo is red in the application, you can’t stop other people to use the same logo in green.  For this reason, the lawyers in the AsiaBridge Law network suggest clients send a digital copy of the logo in black and white, as the TM protection will cover all color combinations!

Common Mistake #3: Asking a random Chinese speaker to translate your brand names and slogans

Even if you don’t plan to sell your product in China, you should still protect the Chinese translation of your brand.
You don’t have to pay extra for this coverage, so make the effort when you apply for the TM.
If you don’t register a Chinese name, someone else could register the Chinese transliteration of your trademark to make consumers believe that they are connected to your brand (like what happened with ‘Air Jordan – Qiaodan’ http://chinasourcinginfo.org/2012/03/07/michael-jordan/!)
Translating a brand name or slogan into Chinese is a specialized skill.  It would be unwise to have a lawyer or random Chinese-speaking contact come up with the local language name. To make things even more complex, different dialects across China pronounce names differently with different meanings.
Consider engaging a specialist to come up with your Chinese language brands and slogans.

Read more about it!
Related content can be found at AsiaBridge Law’s China Business, Law & Sourcing Library.

ABL Blog: Sr. Editor and Primary Content Creator:  Michael J. Bellamy

About the Author: Michael J. Bellamy

Originally from Upstate New York, Mike moved to Asia in 1993 and is a China business advisor to both Fortune 500 companies and small businesses.  Recognized as an expert on doing business in China, he has been interviewed by WSJ, CNBC, FT & Bloomberg.

A featured presenter on China issues at seminars, trade shows and corporate events across the globe.

Learn more about Mike and AsiaBridge Law at

Mike is the author of “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing
(available on Amazon).

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