Indian manufacturers prefer having their manufacturing projects outsourced to countries like China. With the increasing awareness of protection of Intellectual Property in India, Indian businesses have also started registering and protecting their intellectual property in India as well as in other countries where their products are manufactured or sold. Protection of intellectual property is now seen as an international activity instead of one that is confined to the territory of India. China can safely be called the manufacturing hub of businesses around the world. Considering that China’s economy predominantly consists of the manufacturing sector and its robust manufacturing mechanisms reduce the costs of manufacturing, many businesses in India and abroad resort to China for manufacturing whole or parts of their products.

In such scenarios, since China becomes the birth place aka the place of origin for the products to be sold, the protection of intellectual property in China with respect to these products (part or in whole) is crucial. Once the rights in the products, be it industrial design rights, trademark rights or copyright in the products or labels are protected in China, the issue of infringement and piracy will almost be “nipped in the bud”.

As is popularly observed, China has a large number of manufacturers. The general arrangement is that businesses from other countries share the specifications of their products or parts thereof, with the manufacturers for manufacturing, packaging and labelling. By protecting the design in China, the brand owners can prohibit the manufacturers from using the brand owner’s product designs for other brands or competing businesses. This helps avoid design/ trademark infringement in addition to the spread of counterfeit products in the international as well as the domestic markets. Hence it is a strategic move to register one’s designs in China, irrespective of the products being sold in China.

The good news is that, it is relatively easy to protect design rights in China. Further, recently, the Chinese IP Office viz. the CNIPA, issued interim provisions in its IP laws by virtue of which design applications filed on/after 1 June, 2021 can be protected for a term of 15 years. This is opposed to the earlier period protection being 10 years, which is still applicable to design applications filed before 1 June, 2021. All that is needed for registration is, details of the Applicant, images of the designs to be registered and Power of Attorney from the Applicant in favour of a local Attorney in China. Further the government fees for filing design application in China is as less as USD 90 for the Application Stage!

What makes registration even easier is that the partial design will be an allowable subject matter in a Chinese design application. According to the Chinese law, the design also does not lose its novelty if it is exhibited/ published at government sponsored Exhibitions, Academic or Technological Conferences. Further, if the designs have been disclosed in the interest of the public at large in cases of emergency or if it was disclosed, without the consent of the applicant, it still does not lose its novelty.

Conclusion: In view of the above, it is recommended for Indian businesses, especially manufacturers to register their products’ or their parts’ designs in China. It is not only easy and feasible, but is also a very strong protection to have for one’s international design portfolio and helps to fend off infringers globally.