Important points for Chinese companies that want to protect their trademark in the US

Important points for Chinese companies that want to protect their trademark in the US

Product manufacturers invest a significant amount of time, money and effort in developing a relationship with their customers.  Advertising a product and maintaining a consistent quality helps a manufacturer develop a loyal consumer base.  Manufacturers can distinguish their products from competitors products by branding their products with a trademark.  A trademark helps a consumer easily identify products which have been produced by a manufacturer that they trust. The willingness of a consumer to buy a product based on the trademark a product bears is generally referred to as goodwill.  A trademark that has significant consumer recognition and goodwill associated with it can allow a manufacturer to charge a premium for their products.  Consumers are willing to pay a premium because they are confident that the trademarked product is a high quality product.

Trademark law grants the owner of a trademark the exclusive right to brand products with their trademark.   Trademark law is intended to protect consumers from products of inferior quality.  By granting a manufacturer the exclusive right to brand a product with a trademark, the manufacturer can fend off competitors that attempt to trick consumers into buying a product of inferior quality.

With the increase in global commerce trademark law is becoming increasingly complex.  Manufacturers that operate in one nation may be familiar with the trademark law of their home nation, however there are significant variations between the trademark laws of different nations.

Take for instance the People’s Republic of China.  China has a strong manufacturing industry and a high percentage of products sold today are made in or are assembled from components made in China.  Chinese manufacturers, that want to sell products branded with their own trademark, need to be aware of the differences between the trademark law of China and foreign nations.

In China, there is a unified national trademark law and registration of a trademark is the first step to gaining a claim to a trademark.  The first person to register a trademark for a specific class of product has a superior claim to the trademark.  This allows a manufacturer to reserve their right to a trademark in a large swath of different types of products.  Registration as condition of trademark rights is advantageous to manufacturers as they consider what products they will produce in the future.

In the United States, trademark law is a combination of federal law, state law and common law principles.  Use of a trademark in commerce in the United States is the first step to gaining a claim to a trademark.  The first person to use a trademark to brand goods is considered the senior user, subsequent users of a trademark are considered junior users.  A trademark can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to strengthen the rights associated with a trademark, but if a junior user registers a trademark they cannot completely extinguish the rights of a senior user.  Also a trademark application cannot be completely processed if the applicant has not actually used the trademark in commerce.  An Intent to Use trademark application can be filed when the trademark has not actually been used in commerce yet, but it must be followed up with a Statement of Use or else the trademark application is deemed abandoned.  When a trademark application is deemed abandoned, a petition to revive can be filed, but if too much time passes, the application process must start again from the beginning.

A trademark is a valuable asset, being aware of the local laws of a foreign nation helps a manufacturer protect their trademark and their profits.

If you have questions or comments for the authors of this blog please email us at: