The International Trademark Association is due to hold its annual meeting in Hong Kong from May 10 to 14. The group's CEO, Etienne Sanz de Acedo, said it would be "the biggest trademark event in the world".
It is the first time the New York-headquartered group, known as INTA, has opted for an Asian city as its annual meeting venue, Acedo said at a meeting in Beijing last week.
"The decision was based on the growing importance of Asia, the huge impact of China on the global market, and our will to better and further interact with members in Asia and particularly China," he said.
About 8,000 people from around the world are expected to take part in the five-day event, including more than 2,000 from Asia, the largest contingent from any region.
The number of attendees from China alone is expected to exceed 500, almost equivalent to that of Latin America.
The attendance indicates how dynamic China and the Asian region are and how willing they are to get more involved in trademark-related issues, Acedo said.
"Asia in general and China in particular have gone through a revolutionary change in IP development," he said. "Many Asian markets had little awareness of IP and trademarks despite thousands of years of history and cultural heritage. This is now changing in the entire Asian region and within China."
For the first time in the event's history, many of the sessions will be translated in real-time to help Chinese participants get involved and topics closely related to China will be highlighted.
"China is a huge consumer market, and more importantly, it is one of main producers worldwide," the CEO said. "We feel it important to contribute to moving China from a manufacturing center to an innovation hub that can only be achieved by intellectual property protection."
He cited findings from two studies to illustrate IP contribution to GDP and employment in the United States and Europe.
Roughly 40 percent of GDP in both regions comes from IP-intensive industries and 30 percent of employment is related to these sectors.
China has "amazing and huge" corporations, but unfortunately their brand value is not the same level as that of their global peers, he said.
Data from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce shows that trademark applications grew 14.15 percent to more than 1.88 million in China in 2013. This marked the fourth consecutive year that the country surpassed the one-million benchmark, ranking it top in the world.
Despite the vast number of applications brand value is not so strong. "Out of top 500 global brands, we only find 5 percent being Chinese," Acedo said.
To add weight to brands he suggested Chinese companies prioritize IP, building in-house governance structures, developing expertise in dealing with IP issues and registering trademarks in targeted overseas markets.
It would be better "to share concerns with similar companies that faced exactly the same problems years before," he said. "That is where INTA can really help."
With a membership of 6,600 from more than 190 countries and regions, the global organization has forged "strong relations" with government agencies and trade associations in various Chinese industries.
INTA recognized the "remarkable progress" in trademark protection in China and appreciated the Chinese government's efforts in fighting IP infringements, Acedo said.
He said the group was pleased to see changes in the latest revision of the Trademark Law, which is due to come into effect in May. Amendments include higher penalties for infringements and more protection of non-conventional trademarks.
Acedo also called for clear indication of what bad faith is and better reaction against bad faith registrations.
He expressed concern over applying regulation, which is currently under revision.
"The deadlines for reply within trademark registration process may be perhaps too short," he said.
"We certainly understand and agree with quick, efficient and reliable registration procedures but a reduction of time to file observations might somehow affect the rights of trademark owners or potential owners to explain their arguments and grounds," he told China Daily.
"The shortened deadlines might be problems to brand owners no matter what their origin is," he said.
In line with INTA's increased awareness towards China's IP development it issues a monthly Chinese bulletin, which started in 2006.
Furthermore one of eight global advice councils at INTA is dedicated to China. The majority of the councils work for regions including Europe, the Middle East and Africa. China's is one of only two allocated to individual countries, the other being India.
There has been a Chinese member on INTA's 36-strong board of directors and a Chinese-translated version of the association's strategic plan since 2013.
"We feel there's room for more and need for more," Acedo said.
INTA President Mei-lan Stark said, "We see our role as being able to help not only more international corporations find their way into China and make their brands known and protected here, but also aid Chinese companies to go abroad and strengthen their brand protection globally."
(China Daily 04/02/2014 page17)