A new client the other day asked me what it should be doing to protect its IP in China and I asked whether they wanted the ten minute version or the ten day version. Fortunately for the both of us (and not surprisingly), they chose the ten minute version and the below is basically that.

Five Keys to Protecting Your IP in China

I regularly speak on how to protect IP in China and the above is nearly always my first PowerPoint slide and the below is my standard accompanying explanation.

The first key is having a good partner. Having a good partner matters because a good, financially healthy Chinese company is less likely to steal your IP because it has something to lose, both with you and generally. China’s economy is in a substantial downturn, due in large part to the US tariffs and to US and EU duties on Chinese products. See Has Sourcing Product From China Become TOO Risky? This means more than even the usual number of . Chinese companies are not good partners and so finding a good Chinese partner just got tougher.  See e.g. China Trademark Theft. It’s Baaaaaack in a Big Way.

The second key is having a good contract with anyone in China to whom you will be revealing your IP.  The right contract or contracts will depend on your specific situation. The most common contract for IP protection is an NNN Agreement (this is a more thorough, more complicated and, most importantly, more China-centric version of an NDA). But this might also include a trade secret agreement, a non-compete agreement, a confidentiality agreement, a non-use agreement, a licensing agreement, or many other sorts of contracts tailored for your specific situation.  For making sure whatever contract you use to protect your IP actually works for China, check out The Five Keys to A China Contract That Works.

The third key is good registrations. This might include any combination of trademarks, copyrights and patents. It also usually makes sense for you to register your IP with China Customs and with the Customs Office in the country to which your products will be shipped.

And then just constantly monitor and protect both online and offline. See Getting Counterfeits off Alibaba.

UPDATE: Not more than ten minutes after this post went up, one of our international manufacturing advisors called to say that I should have tailored the above advice for those doing business not just with China, but with Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan (the countries where most of our manufacturing clients are going) as well.

Good point, so here goes. The above advice applies with equal force to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, The Philipines, and Taiwan. Heck, it applies with pretty much equal force to India, Mexico, and the Ukraine as well, and to pretty much every other country in the world too.

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.