Big numbers, but not 'strong' trademarks

Updated: 2011-09-14 15:57

By Zhang Zhao (China Daily)

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Big numbers, but not 'strong' trademarks

China has already grown into a "big nation of trademarks" for its number of applications and registrations, but it is still far from being a "strong nation of trademarks", said experts at the fourth China Trademark Festival that was held on Sept 6 in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

China now has about 5 million registered trademarks, the most in the world, but when the figure is divided by the number of those doing business in the marketplace, the results are poor, explained Yuan Qi, an official with the Trademark Department of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

"The ownership of trademarks for all market entities is only 10 percent, which means that for every 10 market entities, there is only one trademark," she said. "The figure for companies is 40 percent."

The forum heard that infringement still happens all the time despite recent achievements in trademark protection. Many renowned Chinese trademarks have been preemptively registered by foreign companies in overseas markets.

"These facts show that most of Chinese companies do not realize how important trademarks are to them," said Yuan. "They often ignore the contribution of trademarks to the development of their companies, and don't have a proper trademark strategy."

The lack of quality and influence by domestic trademarks is another problem, according to Zhang Yumin, an intellectual property (IP) rights researcher with Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

"Much of the profit by Chinese companies is transferred to foreigners because they have few globally famous brands and trademarks," she said.

"In the international market, a pair of shoes labeled Nike can be priced 10 times higher than shoes made at the same production line in a Fujian factory, but with a Chinese trademark."

Zhang said a specialized IP management department should be set up in every company under the direct leadership of the top decision makers to formulate trademark strategies, collect IP information and register trademarks internationally.

She said the government should focus on encouraging registration of international trademarks, trademarks for farm products and those with geographical indications.

Dong Min, deputy secretary general of the Zhenjiang Vinegar Association in Jiangsu province, also called for an active role by trade associations, agencies and government departments.

"With advantages in professional knowledge and information, IP agencies can help companies by providing information and dealing with disputes," he said. "And the government should give guidance and training about IP protection to trade associations."