Trademark registration in China - The ultimate guide

Find out everything about the application process, costs and time required to register your trademark in China.

In which country do you want to register your trademark?


Why register a trademark in China?

As one of the leading economies, China continues to offer huge market growth potential to foreign businesses, with its vast skilled labour pool, leading infrastructure, and continuous investment in an innovative technological landscape.

Given China's 'First-to-File' system, obtaining trademark protection is highly recommended, even if branded products are not yet sold in the country. Any business wishing to ensure that its brand is well-protected before expanding internationally should have China as a priority country on its trademark list.

Which body registers trademarks in China?

The main government agency that administers and processes trademark matters in China is The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA).

How is trademark priority in China determined?

China is a so-called ‘First-to-File’ country, meaning the CNIPA grants trademark rights to the first entity that files an application to register a trademark. This also means that you may not have a chance to seek legal protection in China if a similar trademark has already been registered in China. Therefore it is essential for business owners to register a trademark in China before entering or operating in the market so as to diminish the risk of the trademark being registered by someone else first.

How long does it take to register a trademark in China?

An average processing time of a trademark application in China can take up to 12 months (for a domestic application and possibly even longer if filed as an international application through WIPO), provided the trademark has not been objected to or opposed by other trademark owners.

What is the cost of trademark registration in China?

The cost for registration, excluding legal representation fees, is ¥‎300 (approximately $44) for one class, and includes only 10 items of goods or services. An extra ¥‎30 (approximately $4) is charged per additional item in the same class. It is also possible to register a multi-class application, which allows one to file trade mark application for goods and/or services in several different classes.

Who can register a trademark in China?

Any individual, partnership, trade union, association, joint venture, or corporation can register a trademark by themselves, given that they have a registered address in China. Foreign applicants without residency or a foreign enterprise intending to apply for trademark registration in China must authorise a local trademark attorney to do so.

What does the trademark registration process in China look like?

1. Create a distinctive sign

For a trademark to be eligible for registration, it has to meet specific criteria, one of them being distinctiveness. As the purpose of a trademark is to distinguish a recognisable source of goods or services to the consumer, only a sign with at least a minimum level of a distinctive character can achieve this purpose without consumer confusion. The more descriptive or customary a name, logo, or any other brand elements are, the less likely they will be registered by the CNIPA. You can learn more about registration requirements and the distinctiveness of trademarks by visiting our Trademark Academy.

2. Conduct prior search

Another important step in applying for a trademark is ensuring that it is not confusingly similar to already registered marks. Many starting businesses that tried to register their trademarks without prior research have either suffered rejection directly from the CNIPA or received opposition from their competitors who registered their marks prior to them. In trademark law, those owners who filed their trademarks earlier have way stronger positions over all the similar marks applied for later (as the owners of prior rights can, for example, attack the new applications in the opposition proceedings), even if the registration process was not yet completed. As a result, the CNIPA, in general, recommends searching their trademark database before submitting an application.

3. Submit an application

A trademark in China can be registered through the ‘national’ or ‘international’ system. In order to apply for a trademark in China directly through CNIPA, foreign applicants must authorise a trademark agent to do so on their behalf. Foreign applicants can also apply for a Chinese trademark through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). When filing an international trademark application through the WIPO, you can either add China as a designated country at the time of filing or at a later stage after the registration. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages associated with both filing processes.

International Application

18+ months

Chinese language certificate needs to be requested from the CNIPA (up to 3 months)

Nice Classification + no restriction on goods/services description

National Application

12 months

Chinese language certificate included (providing easier enforcement of trademark rights)

Only standard names under Nice Classification (+ Sub-Classes for each International Class)

After filing your application, it will go through several stages:

1. Examination (9 months)

2. Publication for oppositions (3 months)

3. Registration 


A trademark application undergoes formal examination and substantive examination on absolute and relative grounds within six months from the date of receiving the application documents. If the trademark application is in compliance with the relevant provisions of the Chinese Trademark Law, the application is preliminarily approved and published for opposition.

Publication for oppositions

The publication date marks the start of a three-month period during which third parties may file an opposition with the CNIPA against the mark if they consider it identical or similar. If no opposition is filed (or if an opposition is filed but fails), the trademark is registered, and the period of validity of the trademark (10 years) starts at the end of the 3 months opposition period.


If  no opposition has been lodged, or the opposition was dismissed, the CNIPA will register the trademark and send the certificate of approval to the applicant.

What does the trademark opposition process look like in China?

Any party can oppose a national trademark application or Madrid international trademark application. An opposition must be lodged with the relevant trademark office within three months of a national trademark being published in the Chinese Trademark Gazette.

Time: The average review time for an opposition is 11 months, with the timeframe for a ruling on the opposition taking anywhere from 12 to 18 months on average.

Cost: Fee for filing a notice of opposition: by paper application ¥‎500 (approximately $74); through CNIPA’s website: ¥‎450 (approximately $66). You may be liable for additional legal fees if you have an attorney acting on your behalf. If your opposition is unsuccessful, you may also be liable for a part of the other party's costs, depending on the circumstances of the case, which can drive the final cost of the opposition procedure to tens of thousands of dollars.

How long does a trademark last in China? How can I renew my Chinese trademark?

The national Chinese trademark registration is valid for ten years and can be prolonged unlimited times for a subsequent 10-years protection period. However, applications for renewal must be made within 6 months before the expiration. If the owner fails to do so within that period of time, an extension period of 6 months may be granted. If no application is filed before the extension period expires, the registered trademark will be cancelled.

If the request is submitted online through CNIPA's website, the fee is: ¥‎500 (approximately $74)

If the request is submitted in paper form, the fee is: ¥‎450 (approximately $66)

Why is it important to translate trademarks into Chinese?

In China, the registration of a trademark in roman characters does not automatically protect the trademark against the use or registration of the same or similar trademark written in Chinese. As China is a 'First-to-File' country, not registering the Chinese character name of your product leaves one vulnerable to bad faith registrations of trademarks in China. Other businesses may translate or transliterate a trademark of an international brand into Chinese and then register it first, acquiring full rights to the trademark in the Chinese market. It is, therefore, highly advisable to register a Chinese version of a foreign trademark.

Additionally, if a foreign brand does not have a corresponding Chinese brand name in the Chinese market, consumers may find it difficult to identify the brand or pronounce its name. Choosing a Chinese trademark equivalent is particularly important, not only because of the meaning but also because the sound, tone and even look of the Chinese characters chosen for a trademark name can affect the brand’s reputation. It is then generally recommended to enlist the help of professional trademark attorneys when choosing a Chinese name for a brand.

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