China is a vibrant marketplace for trademarks. A vast and ever-increasing number of applications are filed annually, with oppositions and litigations also on the rise. As efficiency has improved in recent years, the time taken for trademark examination has reduced considerably; yet several commentators have highlighted a persisting problem with bad-faith applications. An upcoming amendment to the Trademark Act is a major talking point - it has been delayed numerous times, but is now expected to come into force in 2012. Counterfeiting is a particular bane for brand owners in the region and thus presents many challenges for trademark practitioners. The Chinese government is conscious of the need to protect IP rights and has introduced campaigns to increase awareness and crack down on counterfeiters. A huge number of firms offer trademark services in China and this increased competition is helping to raise standards. At the filing level, there is little difference in quality between domestic and foreign firms. However, when it comes to complex matters such as litigation, many global brand owners prefer to deal with international operators. Chinese firms are therefore increasingly hiring foreign-educated and trained lawyers, making them more attractive to international clients.
Benjamin Bai to lead the IP practice at Allen & Overy is likely to strengthen the international firm’s presence on the Chinese marketplace. He has considerable experience across the IP board, focusing mainly on contentious matters. Guizeng Liu has recently joined newcomer Hanhow Intellectual Property as a founding partner; “his experience is invaluable and he will surely help to propel Hanhow to great heights.” He covers the full range of trademark matters, including prosecution, strategy and litigation. Matthew Murphy is the leading partner at boutique firm MMLC Group and is “outstanding at ensuring that his clients’ needs are always expertly served”. Trademark work is a significant part of his practice, which takes in domain name arbitration, anti-counterfeiting and oppositions for a roster of multinational companies. Recently arrived at Jones Day from Hogan Lovells, Horace Lam has built up considerable experience in complex IP matters, including cross-border litigation and enforcement, across sectors such as luxury goods, food and beverages and automotive. He is “already helping to raise the profile of the firm due to his excellent reputation”.