Trade Mark squatting is big business in China and is becoming more and more common. The new target appears to be up and coming European brands. It would appear that as soon as a mark becomes the slightest bit known in the UK, throughout Europe or the US, the marks are being filed as trade mark applications in China by opportunistic third parties known as trade mark squatters.
It would also seem that these third parties are not just trying to reap the rewards of just one trade mark either. It is becoming more common for trade mark squatters (which are now large ‘squatting’ companies) to file hundreds of well-known or well-publicised up and coming brands belonging to foreign owners.
A recent view taken by practitioners in such circumstances is to contact the other brand owners whose trade marks have been registered without authorisation to see if they are willing to oppose the opportunistic third parties as a group. Such an approach would strengthen the sometimes difficult to prove arguments that the applications were made in bad faith.
A signed declaration by all those willing to co-oppose which explains the facts of the bad faith applications would significantly increase the chances of having the opportunistic applications refused.
Such an approach is likely to have even more weight if filed at the Chinese Trade Mark Office via an official or diplomatic route, such as through the UK Chamber of Commerce or if the owners share a common association such as the UK Design Association.
If China features in any future plans, either as a potential market or for manufacturing purposes, it is important to consider obtaining trade mark and copyright protection at the earliest possible stage.
Azhar Sadique 27 February 2013