If you’re looking at expanding your business to China, protecting your intellectual property (IP) should be one of your highest priorities. In my role
supporting Australian businesses at the Australian Embassy Beijing, I’ve seen two main ways Australians fail to protect their IP in China, both of
which are largely preventable.
The first issue I see is Australian companies failing to register their IP rights in China. IP rights are territorial. An Australian patent, trade mark
or design provides no protection in China. You need to apply to register your IP rights in any territory where you want protection. It’s also important
to note that registration is separate in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. If you develop an IP strategy and register IP rights in target
markets, you’ll be off to a good start.
Trade marks are important for almost every company, regardless of what goods or services you provide. In China, with few exceptions, the first person to
apply for a trade mark gets it. This is why it’s important to file for trade mark protection in China as early as possible - so trade mark hijackers
don’t beat you to it. An Australian trade mark or patent attorney can help you register trade marks, patents and designs in China and other overseas
markets. Also consider registering a Chinese language trade mark and Chinese top-level domain names before you enter the market.
The second issue I see is companies using contracts that are unsuitable for China. You should seek legal advice on all legal agreements for China, and
ensure a Chinese lawyer drafts or reviews your contracts to be suitable for local conditions. In particular, make sure your contracts will actually
be enforceable in China. Chinese courts won’t enforce Australian or most other foreign court judgements, so the contract needs to carefully consider
where any disputes would be resolved.
If you register your IP rights in China early, and seek local legal advice on your contracts, you can avoid these two common issues. If you’d like to know
more or get in contact, visit IP Australia’s China page
for further resources.