Following is the latest in a series of relevant posts for anybody doing business in China from our content partners at the China Law Blog.—The Editors
China’s newish Trademark Law (it took effect on May 1, 2014) was supposed to usher in a new era of efficiency, not least because the law mandated that all trademark applications receive a substantive review within nine months. But exactly the opposite happened. Trademark registrations were delayed for months due to problems with a new computer system, and it wasn’t until the middle of last year that things began to get back on a relatively normal schedule.
The respite was short-lived. It is happening again.
Over the past several months, the issuance of new trademark registration certificates has come to a virtual standstill, and this time it’s for a reason we can all relate to: the Chinese Trademark Office (CTMO) has run out of paper. You can’t make this stuff up! Last month a public notice was posted on the Ministry of Finance website seeking bids for the special paper used to print trademark registration certificates.
You would have thought the CTMO could have seen this one coming (doesn’t their printer have an error light?) but very little surprises me about Chinese trademark work these days. It’s funny: when I read Mark Cohen’s scholarly, insightful China IPR Blog I always come away with renewed appreciation for the academics and policymakers shaping the future of China’s intellectual property law and practice. But I sometimes feel that they’re living in a different world, a world in which it doesn’t take nine months to install a new computer system and six months to order new paper.
To be fair, the CTMO has not entirely shut down; trademarks are still being examined, published, and registered, and the online CTMO database continues to be updated to reflect the same. But an online-only confirmation is cold comfort to any company seeking to enforce its newly-registered trademark. Without a trademark registration certificate, you won’t get far with litigation in the Chinese judicial system or anti-infringement actions with e-commerce sites like Alibaba and JD.com. The only solution in the interim is to get creative with, among other things, registrations for copyrights and design patents. Frankly, both should already be in your quiver if you’re serious about fighting IP infringement.
—A version of this article was first published on the China Law Blog.