Trade mark infringement compensation ceiling in China rises to $500,000 under revised law

Out-Law News | 06 May 2014 | 10:23 am | 1 min. read

Victims of trade mark infringement in China could receive compensation of up to $500,000 under changes to the country's trade mark law . This is the equivalent of six times the previous compensation ceiling, Chinese state press agency Xinhua reported.

Businesses and individuals will also be able to register unique tunes as audio trade marks under the revisions, but only if the tunes have been widely used, Xu Ruibiao, director general of the Trademark Office said, according to state-owned China Daily. Tunes such as IT software start-up music and mobile telephone pre-set ringtones could fall within the remit of the audio trademark regulations, the newspaper said.

The changes to the law, which will take effect from 1 May, are designed to step up trade mark protection efforts by the authorities and also speed up the trade mark registration process Liu Junchen, deputy chief of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) said according to China Daily.

Under the revisions, trade mark registration authorities will be required to carry out a preliminary examination of applications within nine months of receipt - shorter than the current timeframe.

Those accused of infringing trade mark legislation will be required to provide their accounts or other materials for investigation, in what Xinhua describes as a move to mitigate trade mark holders' responsibility to provide proof of infringement.

The legislation also bans trademark agencies from accepting "entrustment" if they know, or should know that their client is conducting malicious registration, or infringing the trade mark rights of other parties.

Owners of renowned trade marks will gain the right to ban other parties from registering their trade marks or using similar ones, even if such brand names are not registered, China Daily said. However entities will not be allowed to use the phrase "renowned trade mark" in promotions or advertising.

The revisions come against a background of increasing activity by businesses and individuals seeking to secure their intellectual property rights in China.

According to China's State Intellectual Property Office, a total of 1,881,500 applications for trade mark registration were filed in the country in 2013, an increase of 14.15% on 2012. SIPO said the trade mark applications were among 2.4 patent applications it received in 2013.

He Xunban, who heads the appeals council of the Trademark Office, told China Daily that the authorities received 83,000 appeals against trade mark infringement in 2013 compared to 183 cases in 1983. "The large number of appeals has put unprecedented pressure on us," he told the newspaper. "Some of our staffs are working day and night to handle the appeals."

Liu said that the authorities also plan to clear more than 1.5 million registered trade marks which have become invalid under China's laws, because they have not been used in the three years since registration.