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May 10, 2024

Maximize Amazon Brand Registry Benefits: Filing Trademarks in China

Why Brand Registry Needs Chinese Trademarks

E-commerce brands thrive on Amazon’s vast marketplace. But for true growth, brand protection is essential. This is where Amazon Brand Registry excels, offering powerful tools to combat counterfeits. However, these benefits are limited by geographical reach. To unlock Brand Registry’s full potential and dominate the Chinese market, registering your trademark in China is crucial.

[00:14] – Introduction and overview
[00:58] – Conversation with Anita Ma begins
[02:01] – Trademarks in different countries
[03:17] – Filing trademarks internationally with WIPO
[m05:37] – Enforcing trademarks on Amazon
[09:55] – Renewing and maintaining trademarks
[13:41] – Trademarking in China
[19:00] – Importance of trademarking in China
[24:25] – Timing of filing in China
[26:24] – Filing trademarks in India

Territorial Rights: Understanding Trademark Protection

Unlike the U.S., China operates on a “first-to-file” system. This means whoever files a trademark first owns the rights, regardless of prior use elsewhere. So, even a competitor or manufacturer in China can steal your brand identity if you delay filing a trademark.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) offers a streamlined process to file in multiple countries simultaneously. However, ensure your trademark application perfectly mirrors your original registration. Inconsistencies can lead to rejections and delays. Remember, China’s trademark laws differ significantly from the U.S. and Europe. Consider seeking help from a local Chinese attorney to navigate the process smoothly.

Brand Enforcement on Amazon: Taking Action Against Infringers

Having a registered trademark (® symbol) empowers you to report infringing listings on Amazon through Brand Registry. This is often the most effective solution. Additionally, a cease-and-desist letter can usually deter potential infringers. However, if these steps fail, be prepared for legal action in Chinese courts.

Important Note: In the U.S., you cannot enforce trademark rights with a pending application (™ symbol). The registration process takes about 18 months, while the U.K. boasts a faster turnaround of 4 months.

Maintaining Your Trademark: Vigilance is Key

Protecting your brand requires constant vigilance. Here are some strategies:

  • Utilize the registered trademark symbol (®).
  • Set up free Google Alerts to receive notifications whenever your brand name is mentioned online.
  • Subscribe to a trademark monitoring service like Trademark Angel for comprehensive brand protection.
  • Regularly search the WIPO database to stay updated on trademark applications similar to yours.

Remember, trademarks require renewal every 10 years. In some countries, including the U.S., you need to submit proof of use (e.g., product packaging with your trademark) during renewal. In others, simply paying the fee suffices, but someone could challenge your ownership for non-use.

Abandoned Trademarks: Tread Carefully

If you discover an unused trademark, you cannot simply adopt it. Investigate further. Play detective – check websites, make calls pretending to be a customer, and gather evidence of non-use. Consider legal counsel before proceeding.

Buying and Selling Trademarks: Important Considerations

Yes, registered trademarks can be bought and sold as business assets, assuming they are actively used. However, an abandoned trademark can be canceled if someone proves non-use. Similarly, if your Amazon account is suspended, the trademark could be sold to another business.

Pro Tip: Register your trademark under your company name to avoid exposing personal details. Moreover, create your Amazon seller account under the same company name. Incongruities between the trademark owner and seller account owner can raise red flags on Amazon’s end. Be prepared to prove the connection if necessary.

Case Studies: The China Threat is Real

Scenario 1: Blackmail Through Trademarks

A client’s manufacturer in China filed a trademark application for the client’s brand, essentially holding the client’s goods hostage. Ignoring the initial attempt proved disastrous. The manufacturer successfully registered the trademark, preventing the client from exporting products from China. The client was forced to shift production to India.

Scenario 2: Stealing Trademarks Across Borders

A client discovered a competitor had trademarked their brand in China after noticing a similar trademark application in the U.S. This highlights the importance of proactive trademark protection in China.

China and Beyond: Expanding Your Brand Footprint

Key Takeaway: In a “first-to-file” system like China’s, acting quickly is paramount. While proving bad faith filing is challenging, you can claim priority by filing within 6 months of your original registration and backdating the application with the help of a skilled Chinese attorney.

India as an Alternative: For brands targeting India, an Indian trademark can unlock Amazon Brand Registry benefits in that market. However, if you only source from India without selling there, a trademark registration might not be a top priority.

Here’s a breakdown to help you decide:

  • Selling in India: If you intend to sell your products on Amazon India, obtaining an Indian trademark is crucial. It grants you exclusive rights to your brand name within the Indian market and qualifies you for Amazon Brand Registry in India. Brand Registry empowers you with powerful tools to combat counterfeiting, improve brand control, and enhance product listings.
  • Sourcing Only: If you solely source materials or products from India without selling directly to Indian consumers, a trademark might not be essential at this stage. However, consider these factors:
    • Future Plans: Do you envision expanding into the Indian market in the future? If so, securing a trademark now can save you time and potential complications later.
    • Brand Protection: Even if you don’t currently sell in India, registering your trademark can deter potential competitors from claiming the brand name and preempting your future market entry.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your specific business goals and risk tolerance.

Here are some additional resources to help you make an informed decision:

We hope this comprehensive guide empowers you to leverage Amazon Brand Registry benefits effectively and navigate the trademark landscape in China and beyond. Remember, a well-protected brand is a valuable asset that fuels sustainable growth on Amazon and other marketplaces.

Additional Considerations and Next Steps

While China presents significant challenges, navigating the trademark landscape doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some additional points to consider:

Cost-Effective Solutions:

  • Free Resources: Utilize Trademark Angel’s free basic search to check the availability of up to three potential trademarks. Additionally, their free consultation can provide valuable insights into the feasibility of your chosen brand name in China.
  • Flat Fees: Many trademark services offer flat fees for the application process. This provides transparency and allows you to budget effectively. In some cases, if the trademark has a low chance of registration, the service may offer a refund or suggest adjustments to increase the likelihood of success.

Global Reach:

Trademark Angel caters to filings in all countries where Amazon has a presence, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Australia, India, and Turkey. This allows you to develop a comprehensive brand protection strategy across your target markets.

Conclusion:

By understanding the importance of trademark registration in China and taking proactive steps to secure your brand identity, you empower yourself to dominate the ever-growing Chinese market. Leveraging cost-effective solutions and partnering with experienced trademark professionals like Trademark Angel can streamline the process and minimize risks. Remember, a protected brand is a powerful brand, paving the way for long-term success on Amazon and beyond.

Next Steps:

  1. Conduct a free basic trademark search with Trademark Angel to assess the availability of your brand name in China.
  2. Schedule a free consultation with a trademark expert to discuss your specific needs and develop a tailored strategy.
  3. Explore flat-fee trademark filing options to ensure cost transparency and manage your budget effectively.

By taking these steps, you can confidently embark on your brand protection journey in China and unlock the full potential of Amazon Brand Registry.

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Michael Veazey


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