China has successfully established itself over the years as one of the world’s leading recipient countries for direct and indirect foreign investments. Many multinational and international businesses have started developing a presence in China and establishing business arrangements with Chinese companies. Intellectual property is often the focal point of many flourishing domestic and international companies. Therefore, understanding how intellectual property rights are enforced is paramount.
China has a similar intellectual property law system as that of United States. It is a signatory to many international treaties that simplify the registration of intellectual property, such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks. There are four major categories of recognized intellectual property rights in China: 1) Patent, 2) Trademark, 3) Copyright and 4) Business Confidential Information.
Three types of patents are recognized in China: invention, utility model and design. To ensure a patent is enforceable in China, an applicant must file a patent application at the State Intellectual Property Office of the PRC. The duration of validity for a granted patent application varies by patent type, and and term is from the date of filing.
Similar to the United States, both registered and unregistered trademarks are recognized, protected and enforceable. Though, registration of trademarks can offer a better protection in the event of a disputed claim. To register a trademark in China, an applicant has to file an application at the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry & Commerce of the People’s Republic of China. Unlike the United States, China is a first to file country for trademark registration, and hence it is essential to file early.
Chinese law protects originality of works. Copyrights are created automatically by virtue of completion of the relevant works. Although there is no requirement that businesses register copyrights –similar how trademarks are handled – copyright registration gives businesses better protection in the event of a disputed originality of creation. To register a copyright in China, an applicant has to file an application at the Copyright Protection Center of China.
Business Confidential Information
Business confidential information is protected under Chinese law and refers to any information of commercial value that is kept secret and confidential by the business owner. When exchanging business confidential information, an NNN agreement needs to be executed by the disclosing and receiving parties to ensure protection of such information.