China trademark applications are moving FAST these days. It wasn’t that long ago that wait times of more than a year were common for trademark applications. Now, we’re seeing China trademarks published for opposition in three months, putting them on track to be registered just seven months after the application was filed.
For at least a year, we’ve been telling clients to expect that their trademark applications will be published for opposition in 4-5 months. Having cut our teeth in the not-so-good old days when waiting more than a year for a trademark to be registered was common, these timelines were fine by us. But the Trademark Office of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) does not appear to be resting on its laurels.
On June 27 of this year, we filed a trademark application for a U.S. client. The trademark was published for opposition on September 27 — three months later. Taking into account that the opposition period lasts three months in China, and that it takes about a month for registration to be finalized after the opposition period ends, the trademark is on track to be registered just seven months after we filed the application.
In the United States, it is taking 8.2 months on average for first action to be taken on a trademark application, according to USPTO. To be fair, this figure reflects the impact of a surge in trademark applications during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has basically doubled processing times. But the point here is that the China Trademark Office is doing a very good job in terms of speed.
This increased tempo is good news for foreign brands applying for China trademarks. At the same time, this new iteration of “China speed” could complicate things for those who are not proactive about protecting themselves in China. For one, faster processing means you may have less time to react before applications filed by bad-faith actors, such as competitors, counterfeiters, and trademark squatters, wind their way through the system. It also makes the calculus more attractive for these bad-faith actors, who could be in a position to make your life miserable sooner.
More than ever, the imperative to register your trademarks in China is clear. By taking action today, you could be holding a China registration certificate for your trademark before next summer. But if you don’t take action, you may be ringing in 2023 by preparing an opposition to someone else’s application. Stop that application from being filed, by filing yours first!