Trademark advice for New Zealand companies

The main advice by an intellectual property expert for New Zealand companies awaiting to file their trademarks in China is – get in early.

Anton Blijlevens, an IP law specialist from AJ Park, Auckland says that Brand-hijacking is common in China and says that a “trademark squatting” industry had come up there. This is a practice wherein overseas brand-names are registered in China and when the original owners of the trademark wants to enter the Chinese market, huge payments are demanded from them. He also said that sometimes the overseas companies’ own agents or distributors in China were engaged in hijacking the brand names.

Blijlevens told that the first person to file a trademark is recognised as its rightful owner in China and also in other parts of the world like South America. He also said that Christchurch food manufacturer Cookie Time and also Auckland-based household products brand Ecostore are facing lengthy fights to recover their trademarks in China.

Earlier in 2012, Apple Inc. had to make a payment of US$60 million to Proview Technology based in Shenzhen, which had registered the iPad trademark in its own name.

Blijlevens said that new Chinese IP laws will come into force on May 1; however, he believes that the new law is not going to be very strong. He says that he does not expect the new laws to make much difference to the overall problem and the brand reclaim process are likely to remain time-consuming and costly.

He said that his company is advising their clients that it is very cheaper for them to register your trademarks early rather than try and win them back. He is also advising New Zealand companies that if they even remotely thinking about exporting their product to China, they should register their brands at the earliest. Blijlevens has earlier represented New Zealand wine companies who were involved in similar hijacking problems in China.

“We worked with local Chinese IP firms to try and win these trademarks back but it’s not cheap,” he states. “It takes many months and if you can’t show that your brand is very, very well known in China before the trademark squatter filed the trademark, then basically the Chinese IP firms are saying don’t bother [taking legal action], just rebrand.”

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