Supervision of trademark agents strengthened
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On August 12 2009 the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) of China issued a “Notice on the Further Regulation of the Market Order of Trademark Agencies”.
Since 2003 the conditions for establishing a trademark agency or becoming a trademark agent have been extremely lenient. As there is no specific examination to qualify as a trademark agent, any individual may call himself or herself a trademark agent - even though he or she has no relevant qualifications or experience - and set up a trademark agency. As a consequence, the number of trademark agencies in China has increased more than tenfold, from around 300 to over 4,600.
However, the low standards of some trademark agents has become an issue. The authorities have received complaints about practices such as bad-faith trademark registrations, oppositions and assignments, false advertising and unfair competition. Another issue is that certain agents have run away with their clients' money.
Against this background, the SAIC's notice provides as follows:
- The local Administrations of Industry and Commerce (AICs) must establish databases that will make the following information, among other things, easily available:
- the number of trademark agencies and agents within their jurisdiction;
- the number of trademark filings; and
- the number of business licence revocations.
- The SAIC will provide such information to the AICs where necessary.
- The SAIC will explore means for rating trademark agencies and agents, and for exercising an appropriate level of supervision according to these ratings. The ratings will be made public on a regular basis.
- The AICs will investigate and take action against malpractices.
- The Chinese Trademark Association must step up its role as administrator of the trademark industry. The objective is that the profession will ultimately become self-regulatory. The AICs and the Trademark Association must work closely together to achieve this goal.
Howard Tsang, Wilkinson & Grist, Beijing and Hong Kong
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