In recent years, the number of trademark registration applications in China has been increasing year by year. With the rapid increase in the number of trademark registration applications in China, the difficulty of trademark searches, especially the search of graphic trademarks, continues to increase. For a complex graphic trademark, it may need to compare thousands or even tens of thousands of trademarks in the search. The huge registration and application volume of trademarks make the search of trademarks (especially graphic trademarks) more and more important and challenging. This article attempts to introduce some of the key points of graphic trademark search in China.

First, determine whether the trademark graphic part needs to be searched. In view of the fact that many application trademarks are consisting of several characters and graphic parts, we need to judge whether the graphic part of the trademark needs to be searched. The criterion here is whether the graphic parts are distinctive enough. If the graphic part of the mark is not distinctive enough, because the most distinctive part of the marks are their letters or characters and the graphic parts are only decorative elements to the whole mark, such as the following: 


 there is no need to search the graphics contained by the mark.

In other trademarks, such as  and , the graphical parts have strong originality and are in a prominent position throughout the trademark, so it is recommended to search the graphic elements.

Second, accurately determine the graphic elements of the trademark to be searched. In graphic trademark searches, we need to follow the “simplification principle” – not to use imagination – to treat graphics as a combination of simple geometric elements. Taking “∞”as an example, many people think that this is a figure “8” lying on its side, or as the mathematical symbol for infinity. However, in the actual search, if the number is “8” or adopts the element “infinity symbol,” similar marks would not be revealed. Instead, the other graphic element – “two juxtaposed or crossed circles or ellipse” – can cite more similar graphic trademarks. For this reason, we can infer that the Examination Department is obeying the principle of simplicity when it first divides the graphical elements.

Other points of the graphic trademark search

Pay attention to the actual examination standards of the Examination Department, the Review Department and the courts. The judgment of graphic elements is the first step, and then more important is the understanding of similarity of marks. In addition to the judgment based on professional standards, it should also pay close attention to the Examination Department, Review Department and the court’s judgment criteria for trademark similarity. Trying to judge the similarity of the trademarks from the perspective of the examiners would help give trademark owners predictive advice.

Pay attention to other advanced search tools, keeping up with the times. It takes more and more time to perform graphical trademark searches through manual query technology and query means, and the accuracy of the results is more and more difficult to guarantee.

With the continuous innovation and development of science and technology, the use of information technology to improve the efficiency of trademark graphics retrieval has become the consensus of trademark institutions in various countries. For example, in the past two years, several pieces of “graphic map search software” software have appeared in the domestic industry, and the search function has reached the level of eSearch plus (The eSearch plus application provides users with comprehensive information about trademarks, designs, owners, representatives and bulletins. It enables users to perform quick and efficient searches within EUIPO’s databases).

On the other hand, in order to solve the bottleneck of the above technology, the introduction of artificial intelligence may partially solve this problem. For example, Google launched its AutoDraw smart drawing software in 2017, and you can consider trying to apply these artificial intelligence techniques to solve the problem of graphical search.

Pay attention to the official new initiatives. Another particularly noteworthy trend is that in February 2019, the trademark graphic intelligent search function of the Examination Department was officially launched in China. This is a milestone event after the trademark online service system was fully launched and the trademark database was opened to the public free of charge. This is also a new starting point for the transformation of China’s trademark review from automation to intelligence.

The application of intelligent search technology has realized the transformation of the trademark examination work from pure manual searches to “searching by pictures,” effectively avoiding the problems of different standards caused by artificially judging, and greatly reducing the number of trademarks requiring comparison. The number of views of trademarks in searches has been reduced from the original tens of thousands of trademarks to about 5,000 when comparing whether marks are similar.

It is understood that up to now, in the trademark five party member states (China, the United States, the European Union, Japan, South Korea), China has taken advantage of the data and later took the lead in realizing the application of the graphical intelligent search function to the search practice.

The Examination Department stated that it will continue to promote the deep integration of artificial intelligence technology and trademark examination, expand the application scope of new technologies such as artificial intelligence in the trademark fields, strengthen the construction of information technology, further enhance the quality and efficiency of trademark examination, and continuously improve the service level of trademarks examinations. The positive measures of the Examination Department on trademark graphic searches are worthy of continued attention.

As an important and convenient supplement, we may use the image search provided by WIPO’s Madrid Monitor, which accesses detailed information on all trademarks registered through the Madrid System. Graphic trademarks are searched by pictures with high accuracy. They can be searched by shape, color, texture and composite. We can also add figurative elements of the Vienna Classification to make the search results even more precise.