China’s State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC), which also administers the China Trademark Office and all trademark applications in China, is on a reform path and is putting efforts into facilitating trademark registrations across China’s provinces and lower tier cities and spreading the work outside of Beijing. The need for reform is a result of increased brand awareness and therefore ever soaring numbers of trademark applications filed by Chinese companies, which reached over 1.74 million applications in the first half of 2016 (up over 30% compared to last year).
Responding to these needs, the SAIC has opened 13 new trademark application and service centers across China with effect from 1 Nov, 2016. These centers are responsible for receiving trademark applications (including defining the date of application), collecting related fees; examination of application documents; offering query and consultation services as well as granting trademark certificates on behalf of the SAIC.
The 13 centers are located in the following cities and provinces: The Market Supervision Administration of Harbin municipality in Heilongjiang Province; Jiangsu Province (Nanjing, Suzhou); Zhejiang Province (Market Supervision Administration of Ningbo); Shandong Province (Jinan, Qingdao, Jining Industrial and Commercial Bureaus); Henan Province (Industrial and Commercial Bureau of Luoyang); Hubei province Industrial and Commercial Bureau; Hunan Province (Industrial and Commercial Bureau of Changsha and, Huaihua); the Industrial and Commercial Bureau of Guangxi Autonomous Region; and the Industrial and Commercial Bureau of Chengdu in Sichuan province.
The reform is also taking aim at reducing the time limit for issuance of the Notice of Acceptance of a trademark application to three months, down from six. The idea is also that the added service centers will increase the average number of applications handled by each officer, thereby raising the efficiency of the application and examination process, aiming to stay within the 9 month time limit.
Since the centers are so new, it is hard to tell at this early stage how efficiently they will work, however brand owners should note that there is now a possibility of applying for a trademark directly in one of the cities mentioned here above. Having said that, the measures appear mainly to be aimed at Chinese businesses in these regions as the centers have been opened in an effort to manage the high numbers of domestic companies applying for trademarks. Therefore, to be on the safe side, foreign brand owners are recommended to continue filing in Beijing for the time being in order to ensure accuracy and avoiding issues related to language barriers.
On a related note, the SAIC has announced that during the year 2017, it will become possible for applicants to apply for trademarks via internet without the use of an agent.
Camilla Ojansivu Underhill, IP Specialist/ Marketing and Business Development Manager