4 Things to Know About Chinese Language Trade Marks
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade between China and Australia contributing to more than 24% of Australia’s total trade for the 2017-18 financial year. Therefore, when developing your business and determining its growth, you must account for potential expansion into China and the best way to protect your trade mark when doing so.
This article will take you through four things you should know about Chinese language trade marks, including:
- what they are;
- their importance;
- how to develop a Chinese language trade mark; and
- important lessons learned from a prominent case.
1. What is a Chinese Language Trade Mark?
A Chinese language trade mark refers to the Chinese language version of your English trade mark. Where brands do not develop Chinese language trade marks themselves, consumers will likely refer to the brand by a Chinese name. This makes it important that you develop and register a Chinese language trade mark for your brand and register it before entering the Chinese market.
2. Importance of Chinese Language Trade Marks
You cannot overlook the importance of Chinese language trade marks, with several benefits to having one. For example, one of these benefits is the marketing aspect. Therefore, appealing to consumers in China will be much easier with a memorable Chinese language trade mark.
A Chinese language trade mark is also an excellent way to prevent others from copying your trade mark. It is not unheard of in China for people to apply for trade mark registration for Chinese language trade marks of foreign brands, enabling them to sell counterfeit products. Having a Chinese language trade mark provides an excellent channel for preventing such infringement.
3. Developing a Chinese Language Trade Mark
The Latin alphabet is not widely used in China, resulting in several options for developing a Chinese language trade mark. You can find the different options for developing a Chinese trade mark in the table below:
|Literal translation||If your trade mark has a Chinese equivalent in the dictionary, you will be able to translate it literally. For example, personal care brand dove could use 白鸽 (literal meaning: dove).|
|Transliteration||Transliteration refers to directly translating the sound of a word. For example, the French luxury fashion house Dior is called 迪奥 in China (pronounced ‘di ao’).|
|Loose translation||If your trade mark does not have a Chinese equivalent in the dictionary, you can also choose to loosely translate it while adapting to the Chinese language.|
|Creative translation||You can choose to adopt a creative brand name in China that has a limited resemblance to your original trade mark. This is a good way to adapt your trade mark to be more familiar to Chinese consumers.|
|Combination||Combining transliteration and translation is a unique way to maintain the essence of your original trade mark while appealing to Chinese consumers. The most famous example of this is Coca-Cola’s trade mark 可口可乐 in China (pronounced ‘ke kou ke le’). This maintains the sound of Coca-Cola while incorporating the Chinese words for ‘happiness’ and ‘delicious’.|
4. Penfolds Trade Mark in China
Treasury Wine Estates is an Australian global winemaking and distribution company based in Melbourne. They are widely known for making Penfolds wine. When expanding into China, Penfolds registered their English name ‘Penfolds’. However, they did not consider seeking protection for the Chinese transliteration of their name (‘Ben Fu’).
When a Chinese businessman registered three versions of the Chinese language name, Penfolds’ business in China was disrupted. Chinese hotels removed Penfold wines, with hotel owners having concerns they would be involved in a trade mark dispute. Treasury Wine Estates took legal action against the businessman, and the Chinese language trade marks were cancelled after the businessman failed to show genuine use of the trade mark.
While the courts decided in favour of Treasury Wine Estates, the dispute disrupted their business for a period of time. This serves as a critical reminder to seek trade mark protection for a Chinese language version of your trade mark before conducting business in China.
As Australia’s largest trading partner and providing access to a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, expanding your business to China is a critical consideration. As with all business decisions, you need a strategy, including a strategy for your intellectual property (IP). For example, some things to know about Chinese language trade marks include:
- what a Chinese language trade mark is;
- the importance of Chinese language trade marks;
- how to develop a Chinese language trade mark; and
- the lessons learned from Penfolds.
If you need help developing an IP strategy in China or registering a Chinese language trade mark, our experienced trade mark lawyers can help. Get in touch with them on 1300 657 423 or by filling out the form on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
A Chinese language trade mark refers to the Chinese language version of your English trade mark. This may be a translation, transliteration, loose translation, creative translation, or a combination of the translation and transliteration of your English trade mark.
There are a number of benefits of having a Chinese language trade mark. This includes appealing to Chinese consumers, preventing trade mark infringement, and easily enforcing your trade mark rights.