Tim Lince

  • China Trademark Association’s annual Trademark Festival concluded this week
  • First foreign member of CTA announced on first day as Finnish IP firm Kolster
  • Attendees praised the event, recommend more Western brands attend in 2018

The China Trademark Association (CTA) held its annual Trademark Festival in the last week, with domestic and international representatives attending in their thousands. We spoke with various attendees about their observations and highlights from the event, including the positive development that the CTA has welcomed its first foreign member, and the more curious news that counterfeit products were spotted in the exhibition hall.

The 2017 China Trademark Festival took place between September 1 and 4 in Guilin, China. The theme of this year’s event was “To Protect Trademarks and Brands, and Share Innovation and Development”, with the aim to “reflect the world's attention on the improvement of China's intellectual property environment”. To that end, a number of non-domestic associations attended, including INTA and MARQUES, and forums were held on a number of international-facing topics.

It is understood the festival had over 2,000 attendees, made up of approximately 50% private practice attorneys, 35% government officials and 15% in-house counsel. Corporate practitioners that attended this year include those from brands such as Nestlé, Swarovski, Philips, Huawei, Yili Group and IHG. Feedback on the event was broadly positive, with a number of attendees telling World Trademark Review that it continues to improve and is becoming more welcoming to non-Chinese attendees. Christopher Shen, head of the legal group at NTD Patent & Trademark Agency, lauded the networking opportunities and described the sessions as “very informative”. Robert Reading, director of custom & managed solutions at CompuMark, complimented the level of organisation and said the festival “felt pleasantly accessible and welcome for a visitor from the west”, adding: “It felt like the INTA Annual Meeting – even the scale was similar (although it was less spread out than Barcelona). One difference was that there was heavy security entering the venue (military, police, x-ray and searches), although it was well handled. There was also lots of event information and branding at the venues and hotels, with plenty of people on hand to assist. Unsurprisingly, the majority of presentations were in Mandarin, with real-time translation available through earpieces.”

Reflecting the more outward facing spirit of the festival, it was announced on the first day of the event that the CTA had welcomed its first foreign member – Finnish IP law firm Kolster. The firm’s CEO, Timo Helosuo, told World Trademark Review that seeking membership made sense given the ongoing trajectory of the business. “We started to work with Chinese IP firms in the 1980s and, as business grew, we set up our Kolster China Desk with Mandarin language capability to help European and Chinese clients to communicate more easily,” he explained. “Now Kolster is at its third phase of expanding our business in China, where we are actively integrating ourselves into industry and government development activities like the Belt and Road Initiative. Therefore, requesting CTA membership was a natural step and another indication of our long-term dedication to China.”

The stance was reiterated by the firm’s Asian market head, Jani Kaulo, who said the membership “helps us to bring the challenges that European brand owners are facing in China into discussion with the highest trademark officials in China”. While advantageous, Helosuo adds that the CTA “does not have any standardised route for foreign companies to become members of the association” – yet.

Outside of celebrating its new membership status, Kaulo said the festival reflected how the IP situation in China has “already improved and keeps improving a lot”. But he did reveal one surprise he witnessed during his days in Guilin: “There is more work to be done to enhance the understanding and respect of trademark rights among Chinese people and many companies. This was demonstrated during the festival, where numerous Chinese brands were introduced in the exhibition hall. Among them there were still counterfeit products for sale – at a trademark festival.”

Despite that hiccup, the CTA’s annual festival looks to be developing into a must-attend for those with IP interests in China. In fact, CompuMark’s Reading strongly recommended more Western brands make an appearance next year. “The CTA and its members were very welcoming and helpful towards foreign visitors – they are very keen to build relationships, gain a better understanding and act globally, so right now is the perfect time for overseas practitioners to be visiting and making connections,” he concluded. “Ultimately, over 3 million trademark applications will be filed in China this year and if the government throws its weight behind moving onto the global stage, 2018 will be a year of great opportunity.”


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