Because of this blog, our China lawyers get a fairly steady stream of China law questions from readers, mostly via emails but occasionally via blog comments or phone calls as well. If we were to conduct research on all the questions we get asked and then comprehensively answer them, we would become overwhelmed. So what we usually do is provide a quick general answer and, when it is easy to do so, a link or two to a blog post that provides some additional guidance. We figure we might as well post some of these on here as well. On Fridays, like today.
We are often asked if China uses the same trademark classification system as the rest of the world. The answer is yes and no. Although there is no such thing as a universal trademark classification system, the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Nice Classification system – which divides all goods and services into 45 trademark classes (34 classes for goods and 11 classes for services) – comes fairly close. Currently 149 nations (including the US and China) use the Nice system.
But China has its own spin on the Nice system; as we wrote in China Trademarks: Subclasses and Basic Numbers:
One of the more distinctive aspects of China’s trademark system is its unique interpretation of the Nice Classification system. China divides each Nice class into subclasses, and treats each subclass as a discrete unit. A trademark registration gives the owner rights in the covered subclasses, but virtually no rights in any other subclasses. (For further discussion of this feature, see China Trademarks. Register Them in China not Madrid.)
So there you have it. China’s trademark system: the same, but different.