The China International Import Expo 2018 (www.ciie.org) starts on November 5 in Shanghai. The Expo is important to China both economically and politically as it is a tangible part of China’s changing trade strategy to achieve a more “balanced trade” with other countries. Encouraging importation of goods and services into China is intended to balance the trade surpluses that have been created by China’s export drive of recent years. The intention is to encourage foreign companies to set up high technology businesses in China, as well as to import consumer goods, education services, and tourism options for China’s growing number of consumers.
This is therefore a major opportunity for anyone who wants to enter the China market. However, as with all such opportunities there are inherent risks, particularly in the intellectual property (IP) area. Expos and trade fairs in China are no different to anywhere else in the world and there are a number of important issues to make sure you do before exhibiting. The following are the basics, so make sure you discuss these and the rest of your exhibition with your patent and trade mark attorneys, or your in-house IP team.
- Review all sales pitches, marketing materials and products for any information that should remain confidential. There is a temptation to tell, and show, potential purchasers how good your products are. Make sure this is restricted to information that should be released.
- Make sure invention patent applications have been filed for any inventions that form part of the products exhibited. Disclosure anywhere in the world can mean that patent protection may not available later.
- Make sure applications for trade mark protection have been filed in China for all brands exhibited on products. It is also sensible to ensure that applications are filed for all brands shown on your website, whether or not they form part of your exhibition. Trade mark squatting is a serious problem in China and the only real answer is to be proactive.
- Make sure you have filed applications for design protection in China for any products exhibited. In China these are referred to as Design Patents. It is important to file in China before exhibiting as design squatting is also a problem. Like trade marks, the only real answer is to be proactive.
- Make sure that your materials and products are correctly marked to indicate the existence of relevant intellectual property rights. Incorrect or no marking may mean that your ability to enforce your IP rights is reduced.
- Set up a system to track the people you meet and to get all their information in Chinese. It’s amazing how many people enter into negotiations with “John Wang” of “ABC company” that then can’t be linked to an actual Chinese individual/entity.
- Make sure you know what rights you have in China (patents, trade marks, copyright). You may be able to take action at the Expo so talk to your patent attorneys about what you will need to prove that you own those rights. Some documents may need to be notarised and legalised which can take time to do.
- Make sure that you know the contact details of your patent attorneys in China. Even better, contact them before the Expo. You may need them if you encounter infringements but you will need them even more if you are accused of infringing someone else’s rights.