Had a great discussion with a bunch of our China lawyers the other day regarding how so many of our clients are expanding in Asia beyond China and of how so many of them have an Asia strategy, of which China is just one large part and usually initial part.

We then talked of how this has changed the work we do as their lawyers, especially in IP.

Five years ago, our typical manufacturing client would call us for legal help in starting a factory in China or for outsourcing their product manufacturing to a Chinese factory. With the former, we would help them set up a Chinese entity (either a WFOE or a Joint Venture) and with the later, we would draft an OEM Agreement. In both cases, we would discuss their intellectual property and typically help them file for a trademark or a patent in China, occasionally a copyright. Most of these companies were new to Asia, though some had operations in Europe.

Things are very different these days.

Many of our manufacturing clients have been making product in China for years and they are now calling us to add some other Asian country (usually Vietnam or Indonesia) to their manufacturing mix or because they now want to sell their China-manufactured product in China and/or somewhere else in Asia. These companies either have an Asia strategy or are seeking our help in formulating one. Whereas five years ago, a common question for us was “Shenzhen or Suzhou,” today we equally often hear “Hanoi or Jakarta?” Five years ago, we would get asked what we knew about “exotic” places like Yantai. Today it is exotic places like Da Nang.

Needless to say, it is not just manufacturing companies that need to guard their IP in China. Software companies, gaming companies, food and beverage companies, and consumer goods companies are registering their IP in Asia at what feels like a record pace. Balancing all the talk of a China manufacturing slowdown is the year by year increases in disposable income.

The “China-plus” strategies of our clients means that our IP discussions need to go well beyond China to include pretty much all of Asia. Five years ago, only around twenty percent of our clients needed to consider trademark or patent or copyright registrations in a country other than China. They were new to doing business in China and so they needed IP protection there. We would ask about their IP needs for the US and for Europe, but they had been in both places for so long that they were invariably covered.

Today, about half of our clients need IP protection in an Asian country other than China. Fortunately, most Asian countries (Japan, Korea, Vietnam included) have IP regimes quite similar to China’s. The real key for foreign companies expanding beyond China with their products is to be sure to recognize that whatever IP you registered in China probably provides you with little to no protection outside of China. In other words, in most cases, you must register your IP in whatever Asian country in which you are doing business. Also note that in your IP analysis, you must treat Macau and Taiwan and Hong Kong as countries completely separate from the PRC.

Got it?

When it comes to enforcing US court judgments in China, the law has been clear and remains clear.  China won’t do it.  Not now.  Not later.  Maybe not ever.

We are always writing on how because Chinese courts will not enforce US court judgments it is usually pointless to pursue litigation against a Chinese company in the United States if the Chinese company’s only assets are in China. So if you have an agreement with a Chinese company that requires litigation take place in a US city, you are likely to face problems if you ever need to sue. Here are some of our posts on this:

So today when a lawyer from a Middle East country emailed me to discuss enforcing a large judgment from that (intentionally unnamed) country in China, I had to figure out whether China enforces that country’s judgments or not (it doesn’t).  In doing that research, I came across this very helpful chart put out by the Practical Law Company, listing what countries enforce what foreign judgments.  This chart does not list the enforcement rules for every country, but it does list it for the following 32 and I am guessing that will cover at least 90 percent of the searches out there: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, USA, United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom.

So next time you find yourself wondering whether a particular country will enforce another country’s court judgment, I urge you to check out this chart.

Just finished reading/skimming the book, Landed China by Christopher Dillon and I quite like it.  Landed China is a guide to buying real property in China. It is clearly written, yet comprehensive and bursting with detail. Dillon has written similar books on real property in Japan and in Hong Kong and he just flat out has the formula down.

If you are looking to buy, rent, invest in, sell, loan against or do just about anything else related to real property in China, I suggest you first read this book.  It truly makes for a terrific starting point on how to buy real estate in China.

Probably 99% of the Non Disclosure Agreements we see that have been used “quickly” by American companies with their potential Chinese counter-parties are defective, usually terminally so.  One of the things that most frequently makes them defective is that they call for disputes to be resolved in the United States. The problem with that is that Chinese courts do not enforce US court judgments and so even if the American company were to prevail in the United States, they typically have no recourse against the Chinese company unless the Chinese company has assets in the United States. Knowing this, the Chinese company feels free to violate the NDA with impunity.

A China NDA should not be simply pulled “off the shelf” because an “off the shelf” U.S. style NDA is just not going to work.  I am not going to tell you that NDAs with China need be super complicated, because they don’t.  But I am going to tell you that they need to be done right and that means not just pulling something off the shelf. In fact, when we do these sorts of agreements with Chinese companies, we nearly always do them as an NNN (Non Disclosure, Non Use/Non Compete, Non Circumvention) Agreement, not just an NDA.  We also ask a fairly long list of questions to our NNN client so as to tailor the NNN to its specific situation and to thereby maximize the likelihood that it will not be breached by the Chinese counter-party and to provide the best chance of recourse if it is.  To a certain extent, these two goals are the same in that providing the best chance of recourse against a Chinese company is what is going to have the most impact on preventing that company from violating the agreement.

We ask the following questions before we begin work on NNN Agreements for our clients (along with follow-up questions based on the answers):

  1. Please provide us with a one or two paragraph description of what you will be doing in China that you want to be covered by the NNN agreement. Note that what what we mean by an NNN agreement is: 1) Non-disclosure, 2) non-use/non-compete and 3) non-circumvention. For China, 2) and 3) are far more important than 1). The danger with Chinese manufacturers is that they will use the idea you provide them for their own production and that they will then attempt to sell that product to your own customers. These actions are what we seek to prevent through the NNN agreement.
  2. Provide the full legal name of your company, including state/province/country of formation.
  3. Provide the address and related contact information that you will want for the agreement.
  4. Provide the name and title of the person from your side who will execute the agreement.
  5. Does your company have a Chinese name? If so, what is it?
  6. Will you use this agreement for a single product or for multiple products?
  7. What is the best way to identify the products for which the agreement will be used? Please provide us with a clear, descriptive name that does not require attaching specifications or other proprietary information. Sometimes, even the name is proprietary. So we want to develop a designation that is clear but that does not reveal more than you want to reveal.
  8. Will you use this agreement with a single potential manufacturer or with multiple manufacturers?
  9. What types of information will you be providing to the Chinese side that would be protected by the NNN agreement. Our clients range from providing a general concept all the way to providing the full production specifications as the preliminary to a hard price quote.
  10. Will you expect the Chinese side to do any design work during the initial discussion period?
  11. Is your product protected by trademark, copyright or patent anywhere in the world? Where? What about China?
  12. After you disclose this product in China, are you interested in preventing the Chinese side from contacting any of your existing customers concerning your product or related products? If so, do you want a general prohibition or do you wish to attach a specific list of persons/companies that the Chinese side should not contact (a “No Contact List”).
  13. We normally require the Chinese manufacturer NOT contact any potential sub-contractors who would work in the production process. Please advise if you believe that this would be a concern in your situation. Note that some Chinese “manufacturers” are not actually manufacturers. They serve only as a “middle man” for the actual manufacturers. If you use that kind of company, they will need to be able to discuss your product with their subcontractors and we will need to allow for this.
  14. Please advise on any specific technology items that you wish to have protected in a heightened manner.
  15. Note that this Agreement will apply only to PRC China manufacturers. It does not cover Taiwan or Hong Kong or Macau companies that may handle manufacturing for you as intermediaries. If you will be dealing with companies from Taiwan or Hong Kong or Macau (or from any country other than the PRC), please let us know so we can make allowances for that.
  16. Note that the NNN agreement applies only to the preliminary negotiation stage for your product. If you move on to production, you will need a formal OEM agreement. If you will engage the Chinese side to do design, you will need a formal design agreement. The NNN agreement is NOT a replacement for these other agreements.

For more on China NNN Agreements, check out the following:

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Just was emailed a link to “10 Outstanding Ted Talks on China,” and though I myself have watched only a few of them, I am recommending them all based on the overall good quality of Ted Talks.

Here are the ten, along with their summaries:

  1. Hans Rosling: Let my Dataset Change Your Mindset. The widely held view that Western countries have small families and long life spans, while developing countries like China have large families and short lifespans has not been true for about 50 years.  Rosling “busts” these myths with data. He also shows that the idea that economic progress leads to social and health development is wrong too, by showing how China applied education, vaccines, and family planning to create economic development, not the other way around.
  2. Martin Jacques: Understanding the Rise of China.  Martin Jacques explains how the Western world can make sense of China’s increasing prominence in the world. For more on this talk, check out Martin Jacques On Understanding The Rise Of China.
  3. Hans Rosling: Asia’s Rise — How and When.  In this talk Rosling uses data to predict when and how China will be surpassing the United States.
  4. Yang Lan: The Generation That’s Remaking China.  Yang Lan explains how China’s highly connected and urban  young people are changing the country.
  5. Yansheng Huang: Does Democracy Stifle Economic Growth?  Yansheng Huang examines the role of  China’s government in its economic success.
  6. Sylvia Ku: The Amazing Stories of Chinese-Indians.  Sylvia Ku talks about ethnic Chinese who live and work in India.
  7. Carol Chyau: Social Enterprise in China.  Carol Chyau “explores why rich countries are rich and poor countries stay poor, as well as what the original socialist market economy meant to be.”
  8. Neville Mars: Taming the Beast That is Beijing.  Mars postulates that China’s urbanization is “spiraling out of control, especially in cities like Beijing” and of how to “tame this beast.”
  9. Peggy Liu: China as the Cleantech Laboratory of the World.  Liu contends that China is ready and willing to be a clean tech innovator.
  10. Why is Hong Kong’s Cultural Desert a Good Thing? Stephen Chung Chun Kit, Josie Cheng Ho Yi  discuss “secret” Hong Kong and “Why Hong Kong’s cultural desert might be a good thing.”

Watch and enjoy and let us know what you think.

Deleting old emails and came across this one, which I have greatly modified:

I moved to China this year and set up a trading company based in Hong Kong. I have real confidence in an idea for a ________ service similar to what www.______.com provides. I feel that a similar service based in Shenzhen could provide far greater cost savings and …. I am building contacts in this region, some of which have good experience in similar fields both from China and abroad. It is done a little bit from China and HK already (which I have participated in) though on a fairly small scale and not executed very well.

My question is this. With a WOFE, is it possible that after the minimum capital requirement is achieved, that the entity would only receive money to cover its costs in China? The plan is to have the main company in Hong Kong, which takes the payments from customers, though the Chinese company in Shenzhen would have to run/lease the warehouse space and employ local staff. If this was the case (keeping profits in Hong Kong), have you found the Chinese authorities are against such a model, or are they happy enough that the Chinese company would at least be employing Chinese staff and renting property etc?

I responded as follows:

This is a tax question and we do not give tax advice even if paid.  Generally, China wants to see its WFOEs make a reasonable profit and if they are not making a reasonable profit, they will attribute a reasonable profit to the WFOE and tax it accordingly. The fact that you have a Hong Kong entity and that you are employing a few locals is irrelevant.

It sounds like your China company is going to be engaging in transactions that involve transfer pricing.  We recommend people retain a good accounting firm to help them figure out what a reasonable profit is because that way you can get on the lower end of “reasonable” and probably keep the tax people away. But if your profits are too low (especially if you are engaging in transactions that implicate transfer pricing issues), the chances are good that the Chinese tax people will come in and they probably will not be very happy and so their definition of reasonable may not be reasonable at all.

One of the keys here is how you define your WFOE.  We get cases all the time where people come to us because the Chinese tax authorities think that X business should have much higher margins and the people tell us that they are not really even in X business but that the “idiot” (their word not ours) they used for their WFOE registration told them to describe themselves that way because the registration people like it. Well of course the registration people liked it. The registration people liked it because they figured the tax collections would be high. This is just one of about twenty reasons why how you define yourself from the get-go can be so important and that will certainly be the case here.

Good luck.

What do you think?

 

A reporter called me the other day on the Apple-Proview trademark kerfuffle. She kept wanting me to give her a quote on what foreign companies should take away from this dispute and I kept parrying with her, unable to give her just one. I kept finding myself saying “it’s probably more complicated than that.”

Let me back up a bit. As many of you no doubt know, Apple is in a massive trademark fight with a Shenzhen-based company called Proview. Near as I can tell, the facts are as follows:

  • Proview-Shenzhen registered the iPad trade-name before Apple had ever manufactured an iPad.
  • Proview-Taiwan (a Taiwanese company that is not the same company as Proview-Shenzhen) entered into an agreement with Apple (or, more accurately, a company acting on Apple’s behalf) to sell its Asian iPad trademarks to Apple.
  • Apple claims that agreement with Proview-Taiwan included the PRC iPad trademark, but Proview is claiming otherwise.
  • Apple sued Proview (I think Proview-Taiwan, but I am not sure) in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong court ruled that Apple is entitled to use the iPad trademark on the Mainland.

Here is where it gets so complicated and here is how I see it:

  • Proview-Shenzhen still shows up as the owner of the iPad trademark in China.
  • It is not clear if Proview-Shenzhen ever contracted with Apple to give Apple the China iPad trademark or any sort of license to use that trademark.
  • It appears that Proview-Taiwan did enter into some sort of trademark sale or licensing agreement with Apple (again, actually the company acting on Apple’s behalf), but since Proview-Taiwan did not own the PRC trademark for iPad, there are some real issues as to the validity of such a sale or license.
  • Did Proview-Taiwan have any interest in the PRC iPad trademark such that it could transfer or sell that interest to Apple?
  • Did Proview-Shenzhen ever agree to sell or license its iPad trademark to Apple?

What I find really difficult to believe is that Apple and/or Apple’s attorneys would have done a deal to acquire rights to the iPad trademark in China without having done real due diligence on that trademark. Basic due diligence would have revealed that the PRC iPad trademark was registered to Proview-Shenzhen and at that point, Apple would have required Proview-Shenzhen (not Proview-Taiwan) sign on to the contract to assign or license the PRC mark. So the first thing to be learned from this (maybe) is to do your due diligence and make sure that when you are buying something or securing a license to something that you are in fact doing so with the company that is actually authorized to sell or license that item.

This all came to the fore when Proview-Shenzhen started asking trademark officials in various Chinese cities to start pulling iPads from store shelves because those iPads infringe on Proview-Shenzhen’s trademark.  Some cities are pulling iPads from store shelves and this is obviously not good for Apple. [Full Disclosure: I have a disproportionate percentage of my retirement savings wrapped up in Apple stock]. Some cities seem to be refusing to do so, in what appear to be political, not legal, reasons.

Now Proview-Shenzhen is saying that is going to ask China customs to block exports of Apple’s iPads from China because they infringe on Proview-Shenzhen’s trademark. The media (and even Proview-Shenzhen itself) seem to believe this will not happen because it would look so bad for China politically. This is where the real lesson lies. If you are not Apple, I can pretty much assure you that all of your iPads would be off the shelves in China by now and they would also not still be leaving China via export. The real lesson then is on how to prevent this from happening to “your” trademark and that lesson is really quite simple. If you want to avoid your product getting pulled off shelves in China and/or prevented from leaving China, make sure that the trade-names and trademarks you put on your product (or on its packaging) are actually registered (or licensed) to you in China. And just to be clear, “in China,” for purposes of China’s trademark law, does not mean in Hong Kong or in Taiwan or in Macau or in the United States or in Australia or in any other country. If you want China trademark protection, you must register the trademark in China.

For more on China trademark law, check out the following:

Here are some articles for those who want to read more about the Apple-Proview fight:

Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

UPDATE: Stan Abrams over at China Hearsay has two great (recent) posts on this dispute. The first post, “Apple vs. Proview: The Assignment Agreement!” contains Stan’s analysis of the Trademark Assignment Agreement between Apple (actually it’s stand-in entity) and Proview. Stan does a great job of analysing the Assignment Agreement, which really is by far the key issue involved in the case. I completely agree with all that Stan says about the Agreement and I add one thing to it. If you think you can properly assign a Chinese trademark without using an experienced attorney to draft the contracts and oversee the agreements you are wrong. And if you think that after reading Stan’s post, you are flat out crazy.

The second post, “What Have We Learned About China’s IP System? Answer: nothing,” posits that the issues in this matter involve a commercial dispute, not IP. I generally agree with this. The heart of the issue is how you secure ownership or rights to someone else’s trademark.

This is part II of Dr. Clarisse von Wunschheim’s series of guest posts on China arbitration. I asked Dr. von Wunschheim to write this series because arbitration is of such crucial importance to so many China transactions and she literally wrote the book on China arbitration: Enforcement of Commercial Arbitral Awards in China.

More from Dr. Von Wunschheim:

PART 2:         Pros & Cons of Arbitration Inside and Outside China

In my previous post, I tried to establish that though the question of whether to arbitrate in or outside China may seem to be primarily relevant for so-called ‘foreign-related’ contracts, it actually concerns all kinds of China-related contracts.  Today’s post aims to determine the main pros and cons of each option, as well as the current trends which they give rise to.

Referring to the arguments most often invoked by the supporters of each option, the main pros and cons can be summarized as follows:

ARBITRATION OUTSIDE CHINA

PROs

CONs

–         Neutrality of the forum, and thereby better assurance of independence of the arbitrators and the arbitration institutions

–         Higher level of professionalism, ethical standards and competence of international arbitrators

–         Increased flexibility and party autonomy, especially with regard to (i) choice of the arbitrators and (ii) conduct of the proceedings

–         Expensive

–         Slow

–         Complicated

–         Lack of availability of interim measures for protection

–         Difficult enforcement of foreign awards in China

–         Western Bias against Chinese companies

 

ARBITRATION IN CHINA

PROs

CONs

–         Faster

–         Cheaper

–         Some availability of interim measures for protection

–         Easier enforcement

 

–         Lack of independence of the arbitrators and/or the arbitration institution

–         Limited party autonomy regarding selection of arbitrators and design of the arbitration proceedings

–         Lack of professionalism among arbitrators

–         Restrictions regarding representation by foreign lawyers

–         Lower ethical standards of lawyers and arbitrators

–         Complicated

 

Though the above lists give a good overview of the most common ‘selling points’ of each option, they do not distinguish:

(i)            the weight of each individual pro or con compared to the others;

(ii)          what makes the difference at the end of the day, the pros of the chosen option or the cons of the opposite option.

With regard to the individual weight of each pro or con, this can be quite different if looking at the problem from the perspective of a Chinese company/lawyer or from the perspective of the foreign company/lawyer.

  • With regard to the position of Chinese lawyers/companies, most of them seem to favor arbitration in China for thefollowing main reasons:
    • They believe arbitration outside China is too expensive, takes too much time and is too complicated;
    • They believe Western arbitrators and arbitration institutions are biased against Chinese companies;
    • The Chinese arbitration system works just fine.

While there is merit in some of these arguments, I also think that they are partly misplaced:

–            Regarding the costs: There is no doubt that arbitration according to international standards and with the involvement of international specialists is generally more expensive than arbitration in China under a local arbitration commission and with local experts. However, there is a reason why, and the list of pros and cons listed above already gives a hint of these reasons. In addition, many companies and especially Chinese companies, misperceive the real cost items and ignore that there are ways to control and limit these costs. They often believe that the main cost item are the fees of the arbitrators and arbitration institution, while it is actually the lawyers’ fees (which are estimated to represent over 80% of the total costs related to an arbitration). They will also often tell you that prices in Geneva, London or Stockholm are far too expensive and they can’t afford to travel there. This argument ignores that the place of hearings does not need to be at the place of arbitration (actually a lot of lawyers ignore that too…). The place of arbitration is a virtual place determining the applicable legal framework to the arbitration, and while they may need to hire lawyers from that region, parties do not need to go there. Hearings can be held in Hong Kong, or even somewhere in China, while the place of arbitration can be anywhere outside China.

–            Regarding the time: It is also true that the deadlines provided in Chinese arbitration rules are usually shorter than in international arbitration rules, and that arbitration proceedings in China usually take less time than in international arbitration proceedings. However, firstly, while speed is good, it is rarely a virtue per se. If it is at the expense of quality it is useless, and even detrimental given the final and binding character of the award. Secondly, let’s not forget that in international arbitrations the parties are the masters of the proceedings, and therefore also of the timeline. In many cases, the problem does not lie with the arbitrators or the rules, but with the parties and their counsel. As busy as famous arbitrators may be, the same is true for high profile arbitration counsel… Here again, there are ways to control this issue, by choosing appropriate arbitrators and counsel. Many arbitration institutions now also provide for fast-track arbitration proceedings.

–            Regarding the argument of ‘complicated’ proceedings, I believe this argument confuses ‘complication’ and flexibility. Chinese arbitration does not provide lawyers and parties with a lot of autonomy, and most things are decided by the arbitrators in a fairly expedited manner. Thus, when Chinese companies and lawyers are involved in international arbitrations, they do not know how to deal with the autonomy given to them and they see that as being ‘complicated’. Due to their lack of exposure to arbitration abroad, many Chinese companies and lawyers do not feel confident in their ability to efficiently conduct such proceedings. And, let’s be honest, no one likes to have to get external help…

–            Regarding the argument of bias against Chinese companies, I believe it is closely linked to the previous argument. It is normal that Chinese parties feel safer at home, the same is true for any party from anywhere. However, this concern has recently been alimented by a survey from CIETAC according to which Chinese companies involved in arbitrations abroad lost in 9 out of 10 cases. Unfortunately, only the result of this survey was published without any information on the reasons for the loss or the methodology or scope of the survey. Thus, while some believe that this survey confirms Western arbitration is tainted by a general bias against China, others (myself included) prefer to explain the figure of 9/10 losses (if at all representative – I am still skeptical about this figure) with the lack of experience and familiarity of Chinese lawyers and companies with international arbitration, which leads them to make the wrong choices. Also, let’s remember that splitting the world into the West vs. China does not really reflect the current world map, be it in terms of geography, economic interests, culture or political power…

In summary, I believe most concerns of Chinese companies and lawyers arise from misperceptions concerning the real functioning of international arbitration. This is understandable to the extent that, except for a handful of mostly big Chinese law firms and their clients, most Chinese lawyers and companies have not yet been exposed to international arbitration.

However, I should also stress that I have noticed in recent years an increased willingness of Chinese companies and lawyers to arbitrate their dispute outside of China, though they often insist on places such as Singapore or Hong Kong. Chinese parties choose these venues because they feel culturally close to them and believe that the risk of a bias against them is limited. From an outsider’s perspective, since these regions having both adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, they are attractive options compared to arbitration in China. However, what the parties often do not realize is that these jurisdictions have common law legal systems, which means that the way that lawyers work and the manner in which the case will be pleaded may be very unfamiliar to them and different from the spirit in which their contracts were drafted. I am thus not sure that this is necessarily the best way to go for Chinese parties, and in particular I am not sure it will help them feel more confident with international arbitration.

  • With regard to the position of foreign lawyers/companies, there is no unanimity and the two schools of thought find supporters. With regard to each of these options, the most common arguments I hear are the following:
    • From supporters of ‘Arbitration outside China’: Arbitration in China is unpredictable. Arbitrators have too much power and the risk of lack of independence and impartiality reduces the chances of fair proceedings;
    • From supporters of ‘Arbitration in China’: Arbitration outside China is not always efficient. After all, winning the arbitration is only half the battle, and enforcing foreign awards in China is more difficult than enforcing Chinese awards.

Again, I remain partly unconvinced by most of these arguments for the following reasons:

–       Regarding the argument of unpredictability of arbitration in China: I agree that arbitration in China is often unpredictable. However I am not sure whether this is really due to the alleged lack of independence and impartiality of the arbitrators or the arbitration institution, as opposed to the general unpredictability of the Chinese legal system. In addition, one cannot deny that international arbitration always shows a certain degree of unpredictability, in particular when the case involves arbitrators from different backgrounds, lawyers and parties from different backgrounds and legal cultures, various laws applicable to various aspects of the dispute, etc.  Who can honestly pretend to be able to predict the outcome?  What must be predictable is the process; arbitration must provide the guarantee of a fair process according to pre-determined rules, and this brings me to the argument of lack of independence or impartiality of the stakeholders.

–       Regarding the argument of lack of independence and impartiality of arbitrators: I have no doubt that this argument is justified in some cases. But this is also true on the international arbitration scene. Let’s not forget that the maxim: ‘the arbitration is only as good as the arbitrator’. In other words, your arbitrator can kill your arbitration, and this is true everywhere, not just in China. While it is true that the choice of arbitrators is more limited in China due to the system of panels of arbitrators, this limitation has been widely relaxed in recent years: Firstly, the current panels of some arbitration commissions, such as BAC or CIETAC, now list many foreign candidates, and secondly, these arbitration commissions now allow the parties to choose arbitrators outside the official panels (with regard to party-appointed arbitrators). In other words, when drafting their arbitration clause, parties have sufficient room to limit risks relating to the background and personality of potential arbitrators.

–        Regarding the argument of enforcement: This is the argument that convinces me the least.

Firstly, why should enforcement of a Chinese arbitration award be easier than enforcement of a foreign award?  While it is true that a Chinese award does not need to be first recognized before being enforced, this recognition phase consists in the review of the existence of grounds for non-recognition/enforcement. Such a review is also applicable to Chinese awards and they are subject to a similar system, though it is not called ‘recognition’.  In addition, I am not sure that the end result of enforcement is more optimistic for Chinese awards than it is for foreign awards.  Most of the difficulties encountered in enforcement proceedings are of a practical nature (finding the defendant, locating the assets, etc.) and apply generally to both types of awards. As to local protectionism or lack of independence of the courts, it can just as easily affect a Chinese award (rendered in favor of a foreign company) as a foreign award. In addition, numbers do not seem to support the theory that Chinese awards are easier to enforce (see a survey conducted by WunschARB)[link no longer exists].

Secondly, even if one was to assume that it is easier to enforce Chinese awards (which I do not believe), this can only be deemed an advantage if the award is the result of a fair process, which meets and corresponds to the parties’ expectations. And in this regard, in view of the cons listed above, many would say that the chances of getting a fair process is more difficult in a Chinese arbitration…

I draw two main conclusions from the above:

  • It seems to me that what makes the difference at the end of the day is often not the pros of the option eventually selected, but rather the cons of the other option.
  • This, together with the lack of persuasiveness of many of the cons, in turn indicates that the way parties choose between arbitration inside or outside China is still largely directed by their fear and ignorance of the other system and is not made in due regard of the specific needs and possibilities of the case at hand. And this will be the topic of my next post.

 

Just got back from a family vacation in Puerto Rico. While there, I saw a rental car company called “Target.” This company had the same logo as the Target stores so common on the U.S. mainland. Well of course that got me to thinking. Is this rental car company infringing on Target (the store’s) trade-name and trademark (the logo)?  Or is it the case that even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, its trademark regime is separate from the United States?

My research quickly determined that Puerto Rico’s trademark regime is actually separate from that of the United States. In other words, if you want your name or mark trademarked in both the United States and Puerto Rico, you should register it in both places. Presumably, Target rental car beat Target stores to the name and logo in Puerto Rico and is now able to use both legally there. 

Hong Kong and China are the same way. And Taiwan and Macau too. I am constantly having to explain this to our clients, at least half of whom just assume that a trademark registration in the PRC operates as a trademark registration in Hong Kong and vice-versa. And who can blame them, since Hong Kong is one with the mainland, right? Same with Macau, right? Many have this same view regarding China and Taiwan as well. None of this is true.

If you want your brand or mark registered and thus protected in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, you must register them in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. If you thought you were protected in more than one of these places simply because you had registered in one, you had better get moving and start registering in one, two, or three more. 

What do you think?

The Financial Times’ FDIintelligence site [subscription required] just came out with its list of the top ten Asian cities for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2012 and three China cities made the list: Hong Kong, Chengdu, and Guangzhou. This ranking is based on data and expert opinion used to rank cities with the best prospects for inbound investment, economic development and business expansion in the upcoming year.

Rank

City

Country

1

Singapore

Singapore

2

Melbourne

Australia

3

Hong Kong

China

4

Brisbane

Australia

5

Sydney

Australia

6

Busan

South Korea

7

Auckland

New Zealand

8

Perth

Australia

9

Guangzhou

China

10

Chengdu

China

What do you think of this list? What do you think of the three China cities named? Why these three and not Dalian or Qingdao?