On 18 September 2023 the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) issued the “Draft Regulations on the Protection of Geographical Indication Products for Comment” (“地理标志产品保护规定（征求意见稿)”). The draft regulations are open to public comment until 2 November 2023.
The draft regulations are part of the CNIPA’s first-ever “Five-Year Plan for the Protection and Utilisation of Geographical Indications”, issued on 31 December 2021. The plan provides background on China’s geographical indication (GI) system and establishes goals for advancing the protection and application of GIs during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021 to 2025).
The plan’s ambitions are to expand the usage and recognition of GIs to promote regional economic development, rural revitalisation and foreign trade diplomacy, and protect traditional culture.
At the end of 2020, China had accumulated:
- 2,391 protected GI products;
- 9,479 market entities using special logos for GIs; and
- 6,085 registrations of GIs as collective trade logos and certification logos.
The draft regulations transfer the examination and approval process from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to the CNIPA.
Article 6 introduces a good-faith requirement, with the principle of good faith being used when applying for GI protection and using GI product names and special marks. This is in line with China’s current legislation concerning other IP rights.
Article 8 clearly details the circumstances where GI protection will be rejected by the CNIPA. These include:
- The product or product name violates the law, public order or good customs, or harms public interests;
- The product name is only the common name of the product;
- The product name is a registered trademark or an unregistered well-known trademark of a third party, thus misleading the public;
- The product name is the same as that of a product that has been protected by a GI, causing the public to misunderstand the geographical origin of the product;
- The product name is the same as a nationally approved plant variety or animal breeding name, thus causing the public to misunderstand the geographical origin of the product; and
- Products that violate safety, health and environmental protection requirements, and may cause harm to the environment, ecology and resources.
Articles 18 and 19 explain the CNIPA’s examination procedure, which includes a technical review to verify origin. If the application passes the review, the CNIPA will issue an announcement of recognition. If the application fails to pass the review, it will be rejected and the applicant will be notified in writing. At this point, applicants may request a review from the CNIPA within 30 days of the date of receipt of the rejection notice.
Article 30 concerns the invalidation process for granted GI products. From the date on which the CNIPA issues an issuance announcement, any entity or individual may request the CNIPA to revoke the GI product, providing relevant evidence and materials:
- The GI product is a common name in China or has become a common name;
- The product name violates the law, the public order or good customs, or harms public interests;
- The product violates safety, health and environmental protection requirements and may cause harm to the environment, ecology and resources; and
- Protection has been obtained by deception or other unfair means.
The draft regulations are part of China’s commitment to advancing the protection and application of GIs during the period between 2021 and 2025.
Transferring the examination and approval to the CNIPA should facilitate the administration of GIs in the future. At the same time, the clarity surrounding rejections, appeal and invalidation procedures will be welcomed by applicants.
With the draft regulations being open for comment until 2 November 2023, market participants are advised to pay attention to further developments.
This article first appeared in WTR Daily, part of World Trademark Review, in November 2023. For further information, please go to www.worldtrademarkreview.com.