In late August 2013, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (China's highest legislative body) approved a number of significant changes to China's trade mark laws. While the new laws don't come into effect until May 2014, individuals and businesses conducting business in China (or considering doing business in China) should be pleased with the proposed changes.
While there are many changes in the pipeline, the main changes are as follows.
- The maximum compensation that can be awarded by Chinese courts for trade mark infringement will be increased sixfold, to just over NZ$600,000.
- Increased "bad faith" protection measures will be put in place to counter "squatting" by local representatives of overseas trade mark owners.
- Non-traditional trade marks will be registrable. Examples of non-traditional trade marks deemed to be acceptable for registration are colours (single) and smells.
- Filing processes will be improved, with provisions for both electronic filing of new applications as well as the ability to file multiclass applications (the latter of which is only available in China via the Madrid Protocol process).
While in theory the changes will affect any individual or business doing business in China, there appears to be a consensus that the majority of the changes will have the effect of levelling the playing field between local Chinese trade mark owners and overseas trade mark owners, by potentially lowering the overall cost of trade mark protection, and making it more difficult for "rogue" traders in China to hijack brands.