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IP Protection in China: 7 Steps to Take to Protect Your Intellectual Property

You’ve come up with a great idea for a product or a service, and you’re sure it’ll make a big splash in the market. You spend a lot of time developing it and are ready to unveil it only to discover that someone has beaten you to the punch. Unless you’ve invested in some kind of IP protection, there isn’t much you can do in response.

IP protection in China takes many forms, such as patenting or trademarking your property. The main reason to do so is to prevent other people from using your branding or claiming your product as their own. 

Here are seven steps you can take to protect intellectual property in China and prevent idea theft.

1. Assess Risks vs Benefits

The very first step is to understand IP laws in China and assess your overall risk. For example, the Copyright Law of China considers the publication of a copyright owner’s work without permission as infringement. Authorities may impose fines and confiscate any illegal income as a result.

If you intend to do business in China, only transfer over IPs that are absolutely required. Retain newer designs and prototypes in your origin country to minimize the risk of theft. 

Hire a qualified IP lawyer to review the terms and conditions of anything you license. Try to negotiate favorable royalty rates and retain ownership of any improvements made in the country. 

2. Register Your IP in China

There is no such thing as an international copyright option for your intellectual property. If you’ve invested in copyright inside the United States, then it’s only good inside the United States. As such, those looking to move their IPs into China will need to register them there. 

Without a trademark in China, there is little your company can do to prevent counterfeiting. Luckily, there is such thing as an international trademark you can apply for. However, a particular country will have to agree to register it after you apply through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). 

Keep in mind that trademarks must be used exactly in the way that you registered them. That means using the same logo and text as it was registered. 

3. Use a Contract Manufacturer

Utilizing product assembly in China can reduce costs, improve your time to market, and increase overall customer satisfaction. However, you have to be careful who you choose to do your manufacturing. 

A contract manufacturer doesn’t do the design of your products. They get the design files, validate them, and do the manufacturing. There’s little risk of them taking your ideas and running with them. 

Meanwhile, a manufacturer who is in the same business as your company should be considered a competitor and treated as such. Don’t give them anything they can use for their own profit. 

4. Sign an NDA

An additional measure you can take when dealing with a manufacturer is to have them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). An NDA is a binding contract that prevents the sharing of certain information with other parties. It also helps to distinguish what can be shared so the manufacturer can work more freely within the set boundaries. 

Since an NDA is a civil contract, it doesn’t violate the law as with copyright and trademark violations. However, it does open up the other party to lawsuits from their employer and risks financial damage. As such, an NDA is an important method of intellectual property protection. 

5. Identify and Categorize Your IP Assets

Moving your business into China doesn’t mean you need to register every single one of your intellectual properties. If you’re not using them, then it’ll only be a waste of time and money.

Identify your IP assets and categorize them according to the level of risk and value. Provide sufficient protection within your company and task your management team with protecting your company’s IP. Limit employee access to those who absolutely need it. 

Two of the most important assets to protect are your designs and any trade secrets. If your product has a unique visual appearance, you can register the design. Trade secrets are protected throughout the use of NDAs or other written agreements. 

6. Engage in Business Carefully

Even if you’ve obtained copyright, trademarked your product, and had your manufacturer sign an NDA, you still need to tread carefully. All suppliers, vendors, distributors, and so on are potential competitors. 

It may be more convenient to have all your processes done under the same roof, but it also means giving them more power over your end product. 

Design your manufacturing process to protect your IP. For example, you can manufacture all the different components at separate OEMs and assemble them back home at a trusted facility. 

If you have a facility in China, do not allow visitors to record or document anything they see or hear. 

7. Monitor for Infringement

There’s no point in having IP protection in China if you don’t keep an eye out for instances of infringement. Monitoring an IP overseas can prove challenging, especially if your company operates from the United States. 

One way to monitor for trademark infringement is with an online search. Not only should you keep an eye out for anything similar to your trademark, but you can also find anything that may be confused for it. Google allows you to search for similar images, as well. 

While you’re there, set up a Google alert for your trademark. Once done, you’ll get email notification reports whenever a new search result pops up using your trademark. 

IP Protection in China Made Simple

Protecting your company’s intellectual properties is an important part of running a business in any country. IP protection in China is no different. Even if you’re only manufacturing certain products overseas, IP theft can cost your company a significant amount of time and money. 

If you need a manufacturing company you can trust in the area, look no further. Shield Works is British-owned and managed in the heart of Zhuhai city. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help your business.