SAIC steps up IP enforcement with another campaign


On April 1 2013 the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) began a nationwide campaign against the hijacking of well-known commercial signs. Following on the heels of the successful Special Campaign against IP Infringement that took place in 2010/2011, the new campaign can be seen as yet another indication of China’s changing attitude to IP infringement. As the Chinese economy continues to grow, IP enforcement is no longer seen primarily as something to keep trading partners happy. The rapid development of local innovation and branding means that effective IP enforcement is now in China’s economic interest.    

The new campaign - Carrying Out Special Law Enforcement Actions against Brand Hijacking - which is scheduled to run from April 1 to June 30 2013, will focus on tackling:

  • the counterfeiting of well-known (famous) trademarks;
  • the counterfeiting of distinctive names, packages and decorations of well-known commodities;
  • the counterfeiting of well-known enterprises' trade names; and
  • unfair competition causing market confusion, and other ‘brand hijacking’ activities.

It will concentrate, in particular, on the following key commodities:

  • household electrical and electronic equipment;
  • general merchandise;
  • food;
  • building decoration materials; and
  • agriculture-related products that are of high concern to the general public.

What makes the current SAIC campaign so significant for owners of well-known trademarks is that it will be building on lessons learned from the 2010/2011 Special Campaign (the Special Campaign against IP Infringement and the Production and Sale of Fake and Shoddy Products). This was an initiative of the State Council targeting infringing goods across all industry sectors, and at all stages of the supply chain (from manufacture and import to distribution and export). With the State Council driving the campaign, China’s provincial governments and enforcement agencies stepped up IP enforcement for nine months, from October 2010 to June 2011. While the Special Campaign was not directed specifically at well-known trademarks and commercial signs, it resulted in a reported 13,831 cases of administrative enforcement of well-known trademarks and left a legacy of permanent established mechanisms for coordinating IP protection between China’s various IP enforcement agencies.

It seems likely that one of the motivating factors behind this focus on making IP enforcement more effective in China is the rapidly growing development of China’s indigenous well-known brands: with global brands such as Lenova, Air China, Haier, Huawei, ZTE and Sinopec, China is clearly a fast-growing brand power. As reported in World Trademark Review, in 2012 the value of China’s indigenous brands increased by 38%. The importance of Chinese brands was also highlighted recently by reports of China’s new First Lady, Peng Liyuan, stepping off a plane carrying a handbag designed by Guangzhou-based Exception de Mixmind. Similar Exception de Mixmind handbags promptly sold out.

The new SAIC campaign should be welcomed by brand owners, not only for its immediate benefits, but also as a sign of China’s ongoing commitment to improving IP enforcement. 

George Chan and Pamela Morey-Nase, Rouse, Beijing

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