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Legal Update

Guidelines on Trademarking a State Name

12 August 2010
Mayer Brown JSM Legal Update

In July 2010, the PRC Trade Mark Office issued new guidelines on examination of trade marks comprising "??" (China) or using the prefix "?" (State) ("Guidelines"). The Guidelines, effective from 28 July 2010, serve to standardise examination practice of trade marks bearing reference to "??" (China) or "?" (State).

No trade mark shall be accepted for registration if it is identical or confusingly similar to the state name, national flag, national emblem, military flag or medal of the Peoples' Republic of China. Trade marks which are identical or confusingly similar to foreign state names, national flags and emblems likewise shall not be accepted for registration, unless with the consent of the relevant overseas government.

Trade marks comprising "??" (China) in combination with other elements may only be accepted for registration if all four conditions below are satisfied:

  • The establishment of the applicant has been approved by the State Council or its authorised body;
  • The trade mark and the applicant's corporate name or its abbreviation as approved by the State Council or its authorised body should be consistent;
  • The trade mark and the applicant has a close and corresponding relationship; and
  • The applied for goods or services should be consistent with the applicant's approved scope of business.

Trade marks using the prefix "?" (State) in combination with the generic name or description of the applied for goods shall be refused registration on one or more of the following grounds:

  • Causing an exaggerative promotional effect hence a deceptive character;
  • Falling short of a distinctive character;
  • Causing bad influence.

Trade marks using the prefix "?" (State) but not in combination with the description of the applied for goods shall be examined on a case by case basis and if it is likely that the mark may be descriptive of the quality or characteristics, or if the mark may be deceptive or cause unfair competition to disrupt the order of the market, or if the mark may cause bad influence politically, registration of the mark shall be refused.

In general, trade marks comprising "??" (China) or using the prefix "?" (State) will be examined with extra caution and upon extensive and serious consultation with the trade mark bodies under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

For inquiries related to this Legal Update, please contact:

Kenny Wong ( )

Benjamin Choi ( )

Learn more about our PRC offices and Intellectual Property practice.

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