IP Protection

You need to take steps as early as possible to protect your IP in China, and businesses should have a clear plan that takes timing into account. Some rights take three years to be granted (e.g., trademark rights), while others take six to eight months (e.g., design rights). Copyright record procedures and Customs can take three to five months.

While some companies may see IP protection as slowing them down in a fast market, our advice is that: “In the long run they will thank themselves because China is not going to go away - it will continue to grow solidly over the next decade.


The companies that will succeed long-term will be those companies that have put these systems in place and been sensible in terms of making sure that the basics are right.

We think there are three essential steps to protecting your IP. You need:

  1. A budget for IP - don't leave it and hope to fit it in somewhere.
  2. A strategy before you arrive that breaks down all your IP assets and identifies how you are going to obtain rights, protect, commercialise and enforce them.
  3. Support on the ground in China for your strategy, whether that be good local counsel, or a reliable partner that “gets IP.”

The best ways to protect your IP in China is to register whatever rights you can, including patents, trademarks and recordal of copyright. If you do not register your IP with the Chinese system, you have no rights. So register early and use the system pro-actively. For help doing this you should contact a qualified lawyer or agent with experience of working in China.

There can be benefits in including China as part of a process of applying for international patent or trademark protection. These benefits include streamlining the legal process and reducing the risk that IP could become public in one country before it is protected in China.

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