Yes, another issue of pollution is arising in China, the trademarks’ pollution. Unofficial but reliable data recently released testify an incredible number of trademarks filed with the Chinese Trade Mark Office (CTMO) in 2017. It seems that from January to October 2017 the number of trademark applications lodged with CTMO is around 4.4 million. This is only the last wave of new applications filed that will be cumulated to the ones already lodged in the previous years and amounting to more than 10 million.
Do we welcome such growth? Many might think “Of course, you do! This represents more job for lawyers and trademarks attorneys”. In reality we are not so happy about this. After looking at these numbers, we wonder if this growth sustainable, if the system can bear such weight and still work efficiently.
It is pretty obvious that, with such a large stock of prior trademarks that are obstacle to the registration of new similar trademarks, obtaining a trademark in China will become more and more difficult. Moreover, considering that examination cannot be prolonged due to mandatory deadline fixed by law, it is unavoidable that the substantive evaluation will be more approximate and the results more unpredictable.
What is next? Are we the only one noticing this? Nope, not really! The usual move in reply from CTMO is strengthening (i.e.e narrowing) the parameters of evaluation of the non-use cancellations. The system has indeed an anticorp to the trademark pollution. Meaning it is the possibile for any interested party to initiate a cancellation based on the fact that a registered trademark is not actually used.
Be ready for the wave sweeping away everything (all right, almost everything) in its path, in other words, cleaning-the-register non-use cancellations will come alone. We mean that to allow the register to lose some weight examiners will apply a stricter parameter in evaluating the use within the procedures of non-use cancellation.
We have observed anyway that this is not a good solution. First of all this adds more job to the CTMO that not only need to examine the new trademark applications, but also need to make examination of all the requests of cancellation. In addition the non-use cancellations are often addressed against trademarks that are in use and cause a lot of job in defending these registered trademarks.
The most amazing distortion of this system is that, becoming the parameter for the non-use cancellation stricter (more evidence, more formality, more intensity of use is necessary to defend the validity of a trademark), a new type of squatter was born. There are individuals that file non-use cancellations on purpose against trademark that have a certain value and might be in difficulty in proving the actual use. The aim of the action is collecting a price for withdrawing the action.
In the light of what above how do trademark owners reply? Filing new trademarks every three years defending older trademarks and adding more pollution to the already existing one.
Isn’t it a perfect storm? Nope, something tells us the system will resist and repulse, but there will be some turbulence. Fasten seatbelts then!