Singapore and China Trademark Registration
If you want to register your trademark in Singapore and/or China, you’ll need to meet each of their requirements for doing so.
Trademarks, once registered, are intellectual property rights that had to be enforced. That is easy if your market is just in Singapore. In Singapore, market sweeps require little efforts; the territory is relatively small, and so enforcement is easy and effective. However, in the event of the company deciding to expand its market beyond Singapore shores, it needs to have an intellectual property strategy right from the start. It is actually pertinent to start registering your trademarks in the country that you intend to expand, even before the actual expansion takes place.
In China, the two principal pieces of legislation forming the trademark system are the Trademark Law and the Unfair Competition Law. Only registered trade and services marks are protected in China. In Beijing alone, there were many counterfeit knockoffs and unauthorized branches of many Singapore F&B or retail outlets. Even the Chinese themselves are not immune nor spared. Most prominent and successful Chinese merchandise and food & beverages brands are targets of privacy themselves.
In the past, enforcing intellectual property rights in China was fraught with difficulties. But after China’s entrance into the WTO, together with its increasing influences resulting in the growth and proliferation of Chinese IP rights, enforcement in China has become quite efficient actually. Also, trademark registration in China though largely similar to the procedures in Singapore (with the same classifications).
However, since Chinese authorities only see English names as a collection of English letters and not English words. The Chinese IP authorities might find English words (one registered mark and another a mark to be registered) to have no relation with one another similar and therefore incapable of registration. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you employ an IP lawyer either with a presence in China or well reacquainted in the Chinese language and the Chinese culture. Upon successful registration of China Trademarks, they are valid for 10 years and can be renewed thereafter.
Singapore Trademark Registration Process & Requirements
Singapore signed the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property, and the Singapore Trade Marks Act of 1998 was passed as a result. The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore in the Ministry of Law handles trademark registration.
Note that you’re not required by law to register a trade mark to use it in Singapore, but a registered trade mark owner gets the rights of ownership and the right to keep others from using a trademark like, or exactly like, their trade mark without their permission.
It’s important to understand that the Trade Mark Act is only effective in Singapore if you register your trade mark. You have to register your trade mark in other countries or get an international trade mark registration under the Madrid Protocol. You can do this in Singapore after you file a trade mark in Singapore.
Your trade mark has to be able to be represented graphically. This might be a letter, or word, shape, color, etc. You don’t have to show evidence of use to file for and be granted trade mark registration.
You can only file suit for an infringement of trade mark if your trade mark is registered, which starts from the date of your initial trademark filing. Your registered trade mark lasts 10 years in Singapore, and you can renew it indefinitely at the end of that period.
The entire trademark registration process takes between eight and 12 months. It’s best if you work with a professional firm to register your trade mark, although you can do it on your own. The paperwork and procedure required is onerous, and it can be overwhelming to complete and file correctly.
China Trademark Registration Process & Requirements
As in many other countries, just because you use a trade mark, it doesn’t mean that you own it in China. You must go through the legal process of registration in China to ensure your rights to use it.
To register a trade mark, it is more complicated at times that just turning in an application. You may not have access to information as a member of the public on how to register for a trade mark in some jurisdictions, and there is not always accurate information online. Finding similar trade marks can also be difficult.
It is best to work with an attorney to help you conduct a thorough study for similar trademarks. You don’t want to have gone through the entire application process only to find that there are competing trade marks already registered.
Your request will be filed with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce Trademark Office. After the application is examined, the trade mark will be published for three months so that others can oppose it if they think it is too close to their trade marks. You can expect your registration in 15 months if there are no oppositions and your application is formally approved.
Since China is part of the Madrid Protocol, too, you can claim the priority of your trademark filing in Singapore as well since it is also part of the Madrid Protocol.