No more paper trade mark registration certificates from 2022, says China’s trade mark office

On 12 October 2021, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) issued Announcement No. 453 (see the full Chinese text here). According to that directive, from 1 January 2022, the CNIPA will only provide an electronic version of trade mark registration certificates. These should be easy to both access and download for logged-in users. 

As strange as it may sound in today’s world of electronic formality, ‘paper’ is a big deal for the registration process in China. Many may recall an incident that occurred in April 2016, under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC). At the time, the Trade Mark Office (TMO) was a division under the SAIC (before the 2018 government administration overhaul). The SAIC made a public apology for a six-month delay in issuing trade mark registration certificates. The surprising cause of this long delay turned out to be a shortage of paper. 

As one might expect, the paper used for certificates requires unique characteristics (micro-text, security thread, etc.). Acquiring this paper entails special procurement procedures and multi-department coordination. However, the half-year delay caused considerable difficulty, largely because at that time it could be mandatory to present the original registration certificate as proof of trade mark rights on some occasions, for example when filing a trade mark infringement complaint at the local bureau of industry and commerce. Merely referring to the record of registration on the TMO’s website would be considered non-compliant with procedural requirements, reflecting a somewhat rigid management style. 

The year 2016 also saw the commencement of trade mark registration reform in China. In July, the SAIC issued its Opinions on Vigorously Advancing the Reform of Facilitating Trade Mark Registration. One of the tasks detailed in this document was to gradually implement the process of electronic trade mark registration. Most notably, the SAIC promoted online trade mark applications and made them applicable not only to trade mark agencies, but to any applicant. 

In December 2016, the SAIC additionally issued its Notice on Improving the Issuance Method, Contents, Formats and Other Matters of Trade Mark Registration Certificates. This made several adjustments to reduce the time required to produce paper certificates, including changing the paper trade mark registration certificate (which used to be printed on both sides) to a single side and discontinuing the lamination of trade mark registration certificates. 

The SAIC further enhanced electronic trade mark applications in November 2017 by issuing a mandate titled Opinions on Deepening the Reform of Trade Mark Registration Facilitation and Effectively Raising Efficiency of Trade Mark Registration. The aim of this was to establish a comprehensive electronic system for all trade mark related public service processes in 2019. 

On 6 November 2017, the first electronic trade mark gazette (Gazette No. 1574) was launched. By November 2018, the trade mark service system was fully electronic, integrating six major functions: search, application, publication, announcement, payment, and registration, thereby providing the public with a complete range of full-process services. 

In August 2019, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO, renamed CNIPA in 2018) issued Announcement No. 323, providing further detailed guidance for users of the electronic trade mark application. 

This time, as stated in its opening section, Announcement No. 453 is made to implement the following four tasks: 

(1) Apply and advance the Reforms to delegate power, streamline administration and optimize government services (known as the ‘Fang Guan Fu (放管服) reform’). 
(2) Advance reforms to facilitate trade mark registration. 
(3) Optimise the business environment. 
(4) Improve the quality of public services. 

In a wider social context, as part of the process of realizing the four tasks above, a number of changes were introduced in other intellectual property areas as well. The retirement of paper patent certificates was the first of these changes. In February 2020, the CNIPA issued Announcement No. 349, which discontinued issuing paper patent certificates, unless requested otherwise by patentees. 

The cessation of paper certificates should help reduce paper consumption and thus benefit society in terms of deforestation, environmental protection, and climate change. That also shows a positive shift in the quality of trade mark administrative public service. 

In practical terms, the change should yield benefits, e.g. saving money on the fee for re-issuing a paper trade mark registration certificate (around EUR 60 each), reducing the risk of losing certificates when forwarding them from agents to clients, and (obviously) preventing a recurrence of the paper shortage (!). 

Photo: Shelly (Tian’s kitten)
No more paper trade mark registration certificates from 2022, says China’s trade mark office No more paper trade mark registration certificates from 2022, says China’s trade mark office Reviewed by Tian Lu on Thursday, October 21, 2021 Rating: 5

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