Just got off the phone with a U.S. company that just learned that the Chinese company (they cannot even remember who it was) it paid to register its trademark in China 3-4 years ago never did so — though it received what it now realizes is a fake China trademark registration certificate. I can’t tell you more about this case because it is so new, but it very much reminds me of the following case study in The Sovereign Group’s 2015 China Market Entry Handbook (which I have in my office because one of our China lawyers wrote the IP section for it) entitled, The Case of the Shanzhai IP Agent:
A North American food company that had become quite successful selling its food product in China learned that a company in Beijing was selling counterfeits of its product. Believing it had registered its trademark in China, the North American company began preparing to sue the Beijing company. In the process of doing so, the North American company learned that while it had retained and paid a purported trademark agent to file a trademark, they had never received a trademark certificate, and the “trademark agent” had in fact taken their money and done nothing.
Without a registered trademark in China, the North American company was powerless to stop the counterfeiter. Its only option was to register its brand name as a trademark, wait more than a year until the trademark proceeded to registration, and then send out a cease and desist letter.
The best way to protect your brand name in China has not changed: register the brand name as a China trademark now, so that when you need to defend it, you already have the registered trademark in hand. And don’t be afraid to ask for references. Reputable service providers will not hesitate to give them.
It was true then and it apparently is true now. Register your trademarks in China, but do so through someone you can trust, or maybe don’t bother at all?