Back to the Basics Series: The realities of doing business in China – Copyrights and Trade Marks

China’s intellectual property rights (IPR) system has come a long way in the past 30 years, and development continues – a revision of the trade mark law came into force in May, paving the way for more thorough protection for rights holders. Although China is now coming into line with international IPR standards, there are still many ways in which the system differs from the European one. Below, the China IPR SME Helpdesk takes a look at two major types of intellectual property rights, trade marks and copyright, and considers how these differ from European standards.

1. Copyrights

The Chinese system for copyrights is very similar to that used in Europe. Copyrights last for 50 years from the date of creation, or the lifetime of the author plus 50 years, and it protects a range of creations, such as artistic works, books, websites, or computer software. As in Ireland, copyrights are automatically protected as long as the creator can be clearly identified; however, unlike most countries in Europe, China also offers copyright registration for owners, a process handled through the Copyright Protection Centre of China (CPCC).

Registration is not necessary to enforce copyrights, but it can help greatly where ownership needs to be proven. As a general rule, Chinese courts and administrative agencies prefer as much paperwork as possible relating to the rights in question in an enforcement case and a Copyright Registration Certificate will prove ownership in the absence of any conflicting evidence. Copyright can also be a good back-up to other types of IPR in enforcement cases; for instance, the visual design of trade mark can be protected under copyright. It is also advisable because registration is granted relatively quickly (around 30 days) and inexpensively.

2. Trade marks