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Improved trademark application process in China moves much faster

More than ever, it is imperative for foreign companies operating in the Chinese market to register their trademarks in the country. The good news is that the application process has been improved and is moving much faster these days, compared to a year or more in the past.

Currently, China trademarks are being published for opposition in about three months, putting them on track to be registered just seven months after the application was filed. This process used to take around 5 months, extending the registration period to more than a year to complete.

The Trademark Office of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) has been publishing for opposition in just three months. This period usually lasts three months, and it takes an additional month for the registration to be finalized. One can expect the trademark to be registered after a total of seven months once the application is filed.

In the United States, according to the USPTO, it takes an average of 8.2 months for first action to be taken on a trademark application. This time reflects the impact of a surge in trademark applications during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has basically doubled the processing time.

Foreign companies registering their brand in China can take advantage of the faster process. However, it is important to move quickly, since others could file applications in “bad-faith”, such as competitors, counterfeiters, and trademark squatters. This will give you less time to react to correct the situation to protect your brand.

By acting today, you could be holding a China registration certificate for your trademark in just seven months. If you don’t take action, you may have to prepare an opposition to someone else’s application.

As China becomes an even more important market for foreign brands, securing a trademark in China early will smooth the entry into the Chinese market.

China’s trademark system follows the first-to-file principle. At the filing stage, the applicant does not need to provide evidence to prove its actual use or intention to use the applied-for mark, unless requested in limited circumstances.

Any sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services from other undertakings can be registered as a trademark. This includes words, devices, letters, numerals, 3D symbols, combinations of colors and sounds either singly or in combination.

In many countries, it is possible to file a single application covering multiple classes (known as ‘multi-class applications’). While multi-class applications are available in China, they come with certain limitations and disadvantages.

First, the official fees for filing multiple single-class applications and that of a multi-class application are the same – official fees are charged based on the number of classes instead of the number of applications. Second, under current practice, a trademark owner cannot divide a multi-class application voluntarily.

If one of the classes faces opposition, the whole trademark application cannot proceed to registration until the opposition is overcome. Also, the trademark owner cannot renew only one class in a multi-class registration, nor can it assign one of the classes to other parties. Instead, the entire application/registration must be assigned/renewed. Filing single-class applications provides the owner greater flexibility and remains preferable.

To learn more about our services in China, contact our Head of Business Advisory - Ms. Kristina Koehler-Coluccia at

DISCLAIMER: All information in this article is verified to the best of our ability and is assumed to be correct at time of release; however, Woodburn Accountants & Advisors does not accept responsibility for any losses arising from reliance on the information provided within. The information provided is for general guidance and does not replace specialized advice.


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