How To Protect Your Intellectual Property in China

Here is how we answered a question about how to protect your intellectual property in China. As the answer is applicable to a wide range of products, I decided to blog about the Q&A.


Question about how to protect your intellectual property in China:

Does China have a good reputation when it comes to intellectual property protection?

Mike’s Answer: 

Thanks for your email. Granted China doesn’t have a good reputation when it comes to Intellectual Property protection, but the good news is that things are changing, and changing fast.  The change is happening for two main reasons:

  1. China has now been part of the World Trade Organization for over a decade and in exchange for enjoying the benefits that come with membership in the WTO, China has to get serious about intellectual property rights. 
  2. Chinese factories move up the Value Chain, away from being just “the factory of the world”, to actually developing their own designs and having their own brands.  However, now that the Chinese have some of their own intellectual property to protect, suddenly Beijing gets more serious about intellectual property rights in China.

You asked how to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) in China? 

Regardless of your product, if you have something proprietary, you need to protect it in China by registering first your IP.

IP Registration Process

a) How is China’s IP registration process different from the U.S.?


China is a first-to-register, not the first-to-market system. That means the first person that takes the idea gets it down on paper and delivers it to Beijing; they own the rights to this idea.  Even if another party had been active in the market place buying and selling this product for years.

It’s very different from places like North America and Europe where if you can show that you’re in the marketplace first, then basically the intellectual property is yours.  The opposite happens in China. Whoever fills in the paperwork first owns it.  And if you’re on the wrong side of that decision, you face a very steep uphill battle to try to regain your intellectual property.

The good news is that process is very straightforward for registering intellectual property in China.  Now it’s not as straightforward where you can fill out the forms and submit it online.  You still need to appoint a Beijing approved patent attorney, a representative that for a small fee will do the filing for you.  But at least that process is very straightforward and can be done in English with their help.  They will translate things, of course.

Also, it’s affordable.  To register a logo, a brand, we’re talking maybe thousands of dollars, not tens of thousands of dollars like in the US or Europe.

b) What are the three places where you should register intellectual property?

Patent Office

First, you want to go to the patent office, obviously.  That’s in Beijing, and you would need a patent attorney to sort that out.  


 A lot of buyers forget that the Chinese government is trying to crack down on counterfeit and protect intellectual property, much more now than they did ten years ago.  You can actually go to the port authorities, and show them a piece of paper that says you own this technology, or you own this brand name.  For example, Disney probably has a team of lawyers that go to all the ports in China, and show these products are from approved vendors who are authorized to put the Disney logo on the product.

You can do the same.  You can work the port authorities to enforce who owns the technology or the brand, what have you, the intellectual property.

Thanks again for your email.  Hope the ideas above are useful to your planning.  Glad to help and make introductions if you like.

For more Information about how to protect your IP in China

Based on your question, I think you would be an ideal candidate to benefit from taking 15 minutes to watch this tutorial I put together:

Mini-Course Snapshot

If you are interested, reach out to me via  and I’ll hook you up with the free access codes to watch this tutorial.

Glad to help! 

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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