What are Intellectual Property Rights and why are they important if I want to do business in/with China?

Intellectual Property Rights are legally enforceable rights over the use of inventions or other creative works such as patents, copy right and trademarks which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. IP (Intellectual Property), as intangible assets, are key to the competitiveness of your business in the global economy. IP is a primary method for securing a return-on-investment in innovation, creativity and reputation and is particularly relevant to SMEs as they internationalize their businesses to areas such as Mainland China. Apart from helping you protect your innovations from competitors, IP assets can also be an important source of cash-flow for SMEs through licensing deals or IP sales. They are also a significant pull-factor for attracting investors. 

It is good for SMEs to know that there are different types of IP types that exist in China to protect their intangible assets. There are trademarks, innovation patents, utility model patents, design patents, copy rights, trade secrets, geographical indications, new plant varieties, layout designs of integrated circuits and user graphic interfaces. In order to protect your IP in China, local registration is necessary in most cases and the country operates first-to-file system. Please note that Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have their separate jurisdictions thus specific regulations apply. Since China operates in a first-to-file system, an IP protection and management strategy should be in place a year beforehand at least in order to finish the necessary IP registrations; without registration, you cannot enforce your rights in most cases if your company has short to medium-term plans to do businesses in/with China. 

For the protection of your rights, it is highly recommended that you register your rights before you attend trade fairs, meet with potential partners or start to sell online. Once you entered the Chinese market you will most likely have limited options to take preventive action or the cost and risk will be higher. We strongly recommend for companies to hire a lawyer or a law firm to know more ways about protecting their IPR. Although the China IPR SME Helpdesk would not be able to provide you with a list of IP lawyer/firms, we can help you to choose the right one whereby an SME can find “How to find the right lawyer” guide from our China IPR SME Helpdesk website. 

How can the free services of the China IPR SME Helpdesk help you or your association?

The China IPR SME Helpdesk is an initiative by the European Union to support European Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in protecting and enforcing their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in China. We provide free information and services in the form of jargon-free first-line confidential advice via email, phone, or in person on IP related issues. The China IPR SME Helpdesk also provides training during which we cover the different types of IP; case studies; practical tips; and prevention and enforcement strategies. We also provide industry and business-focused guides and training materials that address China IPR issues by IP topic (i.e. patents, trademarks, copy rights), business focus (i.e. technology transfer, conducting R&D, using contracts), and industry (i.e. textiles, pharma, clean technology). Our multi-lingual online portal provides easy access for all EU SMEs to Helpdesk information and services, including Helpdesk guides, E-learning modules, event information, and webinar recordings. You can also find our podcasts, E-book, and infographics on our website. The China IPR SME Helpdesk also has free comprehensive articles categorized under General IPR Guides, ‘How to’ Guides, Business Process Specific Guides, Industry Specific Guides, and IP Factsheets that anyone can download from our website.  

Also if you have any questions of pertinence to IP in China please do write us at question@china-iprhelpdesk.eu!