To bring the PRC trademark practice up-to-date with international standards, the Chinese Government has just announced its adoption of the Tenth Edition of the International Classification of Goods and Service as published by the World Intellectual Property Office in June 2011. Like most other countries, China started to adopt this Tenth Edition on 1 January 2012. Coincidentally, Hong Kong also adopted the Tenth Edition on the same day. In parallel, the Chinese Government is revising the Trademark Law (the third time since its promulgation in 1983) to improve the efficacy of trademark registration and protection in China.

Tenth Edition of the International Classification

The Tenth Edition of the International Classification of Goods and Services (also known as the Nice Classification) published by the World Intellectual Property Office in June 2011 was implemented in China from 1 January 2012. A number of amendments and changes to classification of goods and services are introduced. These changes are made to ensure that goods and services are properly classified according to their function or purpose. Examples of changes include the scope of game and amusement apparatus in class 28 (games and amusement apparatus adapted for use with television or an external display screen or monitor were formerly in class 9; now all types of game machines are in Class 28), revising the descriptions of several dietary supplements, food additives and certain foodstuffs in classes 5, 29, 30 and 31, and transferring babies' napkin-pants/diaper-pants from class 16 to class 5. As China also has its own sub-classification, the corresponding changes to the sub-classes are yet to be seen.

Improving Efficacy

The backlog of cases at the Trademark Office in China has been an issue of concern for a long time and the Administration of Industry and Commerce ("AIC") has been trying to improve the efficiency in the examination process. Tremendous improvement has been seen in the past two three years in reducing the registration process for a straightforward application from 36 months to less than 12 months. Recently, the AIC has pledged to further speed up the processing time of a straightforward trade mark application to 10 months and also to expedite the examination of opposition and other dispute proceedings to 18 months, which is almost half the time it used to be prior to 2010. The revised timeline will now be in line with international standards and expectations.

Third Amendment to the Trademark Law

The third amendment to the Chinese Trademark Law has been underway for a number of years. The latest version of the draft third amendment was published for public comments by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council in September 2011. The proposed amendments aims at simplifying the trade mark procedures and integrating the Chinese system with the international practice. The draft will be reviewed and finalised based on the comments received before its submission to the National People's Congress for approval hopefully within this year. Please stay tuned on the progress of the revisions to the PRC Trademark Law.