On 14 January 2022 the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) released the Measures for Fast-track Examination of Trademark Registration Applications (for Trial Implementation).
The measures became effective on the same day and apply to four specific categories of trademark applications that will be eligible for fast-track procedures. If all conditions are met and fast-track examination is granted, the examination will be completed within 20 working days.
This significantly reduces the nine-month examination period typically experienced by applicants in China.
Eligibility for fast-track examination
Article 2 of the measures states that fast-track examination can be requested in the following circumstances:
- The application relates to the names of national or provincial major projects, major programmes, major scientific and technological infrastructure, and major events and exhibitions, and trademark protection is urgent.
- During major public emergencies such as natural disasters, major accidents and disasters, public health emergencies and social security emergencies, and use of the trademark is directly related to the response to such public emergencies.
- The application is necessary to facilitate high-quality economic and social development and advance the implementation of the Guidelines for Building a Powerful Intellectual Property Nation.
- The application is of practical significance for the national interest, public interest or major strategies for regional development.
In order to take advantage of fast-track examination, the measures provide that the following requirements must be met:
- There must be unanimous consent of the applicants;
- The application must be in electronic form;
- The application must be for a word mark only;
- The application must not be for a collective trademark or certification mark;
- The designated goods or services must be closely related to the public emergencies outlined in Article 2 of the measures and consist of the standard terms listed in the Classification of Goods and Services; and
- There must be no priority claims.
In addition to the above requirements, the measures state that paper copies of certain documents must be submitted to the CNIPA. These documents include:
- the application form for fast-track examination;
- the documentation demonstrating eligibility for fast-track examination; and
- a letter of recommendation issued by a competent authority (under the central and state government, the provincial government or the general office of the provincial government).
The CNIPA will complete the fast-track examination within 20 days of accepting and approving the request.
During examination, the CNIPA may terminate applications that do not comply with the provisions of the measures; as a result, these will not be subject to fast-track examination and will be examined according to the general procedures prescribed by law.
The measures list three circumstances in which fast-track examination may be terminated:
- The application requires amendments, clarifications or corrections, or there are trademarks filed on the same date that are undergoing examination.
- The applicant has submitted a request for suspension of trademark examination after filing the request for fast-track examination.
- Other circumstances making fast-track examination impossible.
Relevant parties may lodge oppositions against trademarks that have been preliminarily approved and published in the Trademark Gazette, or file a request for total or partial rejection.
The CNIPA has implemented the measures on a trial basis. However, if applicants meet the requirements, they can take advantage of a significantly reduced examination period. This applies to international brand owners as well, so will be especially useful when quick and urgent protection is needed.
International brand owners should work with local counsel to ensure that their applications meet the requirements and to coordinate the necessary documentation.
It will be interesting to see how many applications will benefit from fast-track examination and whether this becomes a permanent feature of China’s trademark regime.