New name approval system
Prohibited business names
Dispute mechanism
Oversight by AMR


On 1 March 2021 the Regulation on Business Name Registration (Amendment) issued by the State Council took effect. The amendment introduces the following changes.

New name approval system

Previously, business names required approval from the local Administration for Market Regulation (AMR) prior to registration. The amendment enables applicants to choose their own business name, but they must bear the legal liability if the chosen name is found to infringe the legitimate rights of other parties (Article 16). As part of this process, the AMR's role has shifted to that of a public service provider, providing various services – including maintaining the online business name search tool, risk reminders and the self-declaration system.

Prohibited business names

The amendment adds the following new restrictions on business names:

  • Trade names may not be the same as others, unless the business name (ie, the entire name of the company) suggests a different industry sector. With some exceptions, trade names may not be registered again if they have been cancelled, revoked or changed within one year (Article 17).
  • Trade names cannot be the same as that of local administrative divisions, at or above the county level. Trade names also cannot include the characteristics of a certain sector or business, unless they have another meaning (Article 8).
  • Business names may not contain words that are obscene or pornographic or that reference gambling, superstition, terror or violence. They also must not include words that discriminate against ethnicity, race, religion or sex or violate public order or have other adverse effects (Article 11).

Dispute mechanism

If a dispute between two business names arises, the parties concerned may choose to file a civil suit with the court or request dispute resolution by the AMR, which may either arrange mediation or directly issue an administrative decision within three months (Article 21).

If the dispute concerns a conflict between prior rights (eg, a dispute concerning a trademark and a business name) the amendment states only that the relevant laws apply (Article 22).

Oversight by AMR

The AMR is responsible for overseeing the selection of new business names. Registration will be denied if the AMR finds that the name violates the registration rules. The AMR is also entitled to cancel a business name registration if a violation of the rules is discovered after its registration. Third parties can report violations to the AMR and request the AMR to take action (Article 20).

When an order is made to cease using a certain business name either by the court or the AMR, the business name must be amended within 30 days. Until the name is changed, the AMR will use only the business registration number (and not the business name itself). If a business does not change its name within the prescribed time, the AMR will add the business to a list of abnormal companies. This list is accessible to the public (Article 23).

For further information on this topic please contact He Wei or Paul Ranjard at Wanhuida Intellectual Property by telephone (+86 10 6892 1000) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Wanhuida Intellectual Property website can be accessed at www.wanhuida.com.

An earlier version of this article was first published in INTA Bulletin.