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Protect your brand from Chinese counterfeits

10 January 2017

Shortly before Christmas it was announced that the U.S. Trade Representative added Alibaba’s C2C online marketplace, Taobao, to a list of “notorious markets” that traffic in counterfeit goods. While Alibaba have recently taken steps to tackle counterfeit sellers, a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that the Chinese counterfeits industry brings in around $396 billion annually and represents more than 12% of China’s total exports.

So, how to do brands looking to sell into China, protect against counterfeits?


Be the first to register your China trademark

China is a first-to-file country, so until you register your brand trademark you have no rights in that trademark. Registering your trademark with China’s Trademark Office is a crucial first step for any brand’s China IP strategy, since it will give you the legal capacity to enforce your rights to that mark. Although this alone won’t limit the spread of counterfeit goods, it is an important part of your anti-counterfeiting strategy.


Register your trademark again with customs

If you are concerned about counterfeit goods coming from China, the next step should be to register your trademark with Chinese Customs. While, China Customs officials have the discretion to check every outgoing shipment for trademark infringements against the Trademark Office database, in reality they are more likely to only check against the Customs database.

So if you don’t register your trademark separately with Customs it means that they are unlikely to catch and restrict the movement of counterfeits goods.


Pre-empt Chinese counterfeits

Once you have registered your trademark, the next step is to prevent future counterfeiting issues by keeping an eye out for potential bad players. This can be done by regularly reviewing parties who are filing new trademark applications that are similar or identical to your own. Not only will this give you an idea of who is watching your brand, but it will also allow you to oppose such applications in an attempt to stop such parties at an early stage.


Teach your customers to spot a fake

As well as taking all the necessary legal precautions to protect your brand, it is also worth informing potential customers of how to spot a fake in order to discourage future purchases from counterfeit sellers.

A few tips could include:

  • If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is – if you are looking to buy a Swarovski watch that usually retails for around £200 and it is being sold for £30 it is likely the product hasn’t been tested and certified.
  • Check for positive customer feedback – you will soon be able to tell from reviews whether or not customers are happy with the products they have received.
  • Has the product been packaged properly – buyers should be wary of a product if it has not been delivered in the company’s official brand packaging or if it is missing packaging, such as the plastic coverings on a handbag’s handle or official brand barcodes.


If you want to find out more on how to navigate the Chinese ecommerce market give the team a Pentagon a call on: +44 (0)20 8940 5392 or email:



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