Redefining English words in Chinese to support trademark proceedings

By Steven Andrews and Nancy Qu, Chang Tsi & Partners

Although English-language ability is rapidly improving in China, many people – including Chinese trademark officials – rely on Chinese definitions of English words. In most cases this is not a problem, but surprisingly often the Chinese version of the English word does not actually mean what the English word really means.

Steven Andrews 铸成律师事务所 外籍顾问、客户经理 Foreign Counsel, Client Manager Chang Tsi & Partners
Steven Andrews
Foreign Counsel, Client Manager
Chang Tsi & Partners

To make matter worse, many online Chinese dictionaries copy from each other, so quickly one inaccurate translation is widely duplicated. This can present a significant problem for trademark owners who attempt to register an English-language trademark in China. We briefly discuss two administrative lawsuits that overcame an adverse official refusal and a review of official refusal decisions because we were able to convince Chinese dictionaries to change the English definitions of our client’s trademarks.

Article 11 of China’s Trademark Law states: “The following signs shall not be registered as trademarks: (1) Those consisting only of generic names, devices or model numbers of the goods concerned; (2) Those consisting only of a direct representation of the quality, primary raw materials, functions, intended purposes, weight, quantity or other characteristics of the goods concerned”.

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Steven Andrews is a foreign counsel and client manager, and Nancy Qu is a lawyer and client manager at Chang Tsi & Partners

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