As a trademark owner, you’ve probably learned of the benefits of registering your trademark in China. Whether you have existing customers in Shanghai or you are looking to manufacture your product in Beijing, your business could benefit from Chinese trademark protection. The first step in this process is to conduct a China trademark database search. This will alert you to any current Chinese trademarks with exact or similar matches. There are resources available online, claiming to assist you, but it can be a challenge to understand how to get started. Consider the following information when you conduct your China trademark database search.

Why Conducting a Trademark Database Search in China is Important

The process to register a trademark in China is often long and tedious. Though the China Trademark Office, or CTMO, states that trademarks should be processed within 9 months, the typical length of time to register a trademark in China is usually 12 months, and in some cases, longer. The purpose of performing a China trademark database search is to determine whether or not your trademark is available to register in China before you begin the lengthy process of registering.
Another benefit of conducting a China trademark database search is to determine if anyone has filed a bad faith registration of your trademark. Because China is a first-to-file country, virtually anyone can be granted the rights to a trademark if they are the first to file for registration. Unfortunately, this has become a lucrative business for some, who will register a trademark with the intended use of ransoming the mark to its rightful owner at a later date. If your China trademark database search reveals a squatter has already registered your trademark, you will at least know the road ahead could be difficult and can confer with your trademark attorney on the best approach moving forward.

Challenges to Conducting a China Trademark Database Search

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The unique nature of the Chinese trademark process can make it challenging to conduct a trademark database search. The first challenge is determining how to translate your trademark to search the Chinese database. Some online sites allow you to conduct your search in English, but it’s unclear how accurate those search results will be. You could conduct a database search, instead, using your mark translated to Chinese characters, but that requires a strong knowledge of the Chinese language, something most American business owners likely won’t have.
With the influx of Chinese trademark applications being filed every day, there is no way to know if the database you are searching is up-to-date with the most recent registrations. Because of this, there is no guarantee that your trademark search will return recently filed trademark matches. In addition, while trademark database searches are fairly accurate at locating exact matches to your mark, they may not be comprehensive enough to detect near matches or any other mark that may be deemed confusingly similar by a Chinese trademark examiner.

Who to Work With When Conducting a China Trademark Search

If you do an online search for Chinese trademark databases, you will see many options purporting to be the official trademark database. Unfortunately, after further review, you will notice that these sites are actually run by Chinese attorneys or other individuals looking to gain your business. As a foreign citizen, it may be hard to discern the most comprehensive database to use or the best Chinese attorneys to work with. Because of this, it is best to work with an experienced U.S. trademark attorney.
Partnering with a trademark attorney will help to streamline the process of registering your trademark in China. A US trademark law firm (such as ours) has relationships with trusted local attorneys in China that can help run a thorough search and provide an opinion on the viability of your trademark in China. Moreover, to ensure the process is efficient and effective, it is best to work with a U.S. trademark attorney when filing a trademark registration internationally.

Conducting a China trademark database search is a critical first step in registering your trademark. There is no shortage of online databases claiming to assist you with your search, but it can be a challenge to know which site is legitimate. When you begin the process to register your trademark in China, consider working with a qualified U.S. trademark attorney. From a trademark search to translation and appeals, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have professional guidance from start to finish.