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Originally posted 2012-08-30 00:24:20.
Many fashion and apparel brands are looking to expand their market internationally, and they have their sights set on China. Although China is an infamously difficult place to do business, here are 8 ways to help empower your chances of success competing in the Chinese market.
- Plan and act early. Filing a trademark application takes a great deal of time. It’s in your best interest to act quickly. It’s also wise to identify and potential conflicts before you enter the market.It’s best to identify potential conflict before you enter the market. China is a “first to file” country, so pirates, or even Chinese factories might be ahead of you if they applied to use your brand’s marks years before your company even started to think about competing in China.
- Look after your own interests. Always keep a diligent eye on your factories. Your brand’s contracts with its Chinese factories should specify that all trademark use belongs to your brand, and if the facility somehow received registrations for your marks, they must sign over those marks to your brand. Contracts also should state that overruns and seconds must either be destroyed or have their marks and registered identification numbers removed.
- Master the subclass system. China’s complicated subclass classification system encourages companies to “register defensively, not just offensively.” All this means is that your brand should register your marks in all subclasses and sub-subclasses in whichever classes are appropriate so that you can avoid pirates filing in a category that you may have overlooked.
- Stay “in character.” Controlling your brand image in China requires you to understand how your brand and marks translate with their culture. By understanding the fundamentals of Chinese character marks (understanding translation vs. transliteration, and knowing the differences between traditional and simplified Chinese characters) will help your brand reach Chinese Consumers. If your brand doesn’t create its own Chinese characters, their media and consumers will do it for you.
- Copyright your brand. Obtaining copyrights will offer your brand key protection and advantages against pirates, especially if you file early.
- Understand the “opposition game” in China. To help beat the opposition’s applications to use your marks, consider how your goods and services may or may not overlap. For your mark to be well known by the Chinese system, it must be well known in China and before your opposition’s filing date. While “bad faith” is widely used in the U.S. and other countries to fight intellectual property and trademark infringements, “bad faith” in China is defined as “injure to society,” and almost impossible to prove in court.
- Take advantage of all available enforcement tools. Getting the trademark office on your site and petitioning the Administration of Industry and Commerce (AIC) to conduct administrative raids on facilities that may be using your mark illegally are some examples of the proactive aggressiveness you will need to engage in to protect yourself. Litigation is always an option, although brands will lose most appeals in opposition cases, but successively appealing improves the odds of success, but be prepared to commit.
- Conduct a trademark audit.Before your brand establishes itself in China, it’s entirely possible that pirates have already been using your brand marks to operate in the country. An audit can help your brand understand next steps. What kinds of marks should your brand register in China? You should register any trademarks you plan to use commercially and those for items manufactured in China, as well as your brand’s well-known marks — the very ones pirates are likely to usurp.
An example of a trademark would be the “swoosh” logo that we identify with Nike. The swoosh, “Just do it,” and the name itself, “Nike,” are all trademarked phrases or images that belong to the Nike Corporation. When we see the swoosh logo, hear “Just do it,” or see the word “Nike,” we immediately are reminded of the style of their shoes, their comfort, and the lifestyle that we expect to be offered from the organization. Because these images and phrases inspire such brand awareness and loyalty, they are very coveted. To ensure that Nike is the only organization that can make use of and profit from their logos and slogans, they have them trademarked. Trademarks are words, phrases, symbols or designs that identify and distinguish the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
Binns, Jesssica. (August 17, 2012). Top Tips for Protecting Your Brand in China. Retrieved on
August 28, 2012 from http://m.apparel.edgl.com/MobileDetailPage.aspx?article=44965