China trademarksIt should go without saying that the applications to register trademarks in China are 100% in Chinese. The applications themselves are entirely in Chinese, as are everything one puts on the application to complete them for filing. I always find it strange when clients and potential clients express surprise at this and I usually respond by noting how the trademark applications in the United States are entirely in English.

The fact that the applications are entirely in Chinese means that your company name goes into Chinese as well. This is not usually a big deal, but it can be when things get confusing down the road. When we do a trademark application for a company that already has its own entity in China or at least enough of a presence to have already translated its English name into Chinese, there is usually no issue. If the client wants its Chinese entity to hold the trademark, we put the trademark in the name of the Chinese entity and no translation is necessary. Similarly, if the client wants the trademark to go into its United States entity, and that entity already has a Chinese translation, we use that.

But oftentimes, we register trademarks in China for companies that have no real direct interest in China and because of that, they have no Chinese name. For instance, we recently did a number of trademarks for a large company that wanted its names trademarked in China because it “probably will go there eventually.”

In those situations, it can be important to choose the right translation (and to stick with it) so as to avoid confusion down the road on who owns your mark.

China is trying to deal with the potential for confusion by allowing for a Roman script version of the applicant name and address to be included in the application. Though the Chinese language version of the company name is treated as controlling, the Roman script version is used for assistance in searching and for prevention of confusion. As one would expect, no attempt is being made to accommodate other languages and scripts. For languages that use a non-Roman script, translation into English or some other European language (French usually) is required. But again, in the end, it really just makes sense to do it right in Chinese.