In January 2017 some new examination criteria for trademark applications, both national and international, came into force in China.
First of all it will be possible to apply for registration of sound marks (whose registration was already introduced with the New Law Trademarks in 2014), based on detailed and specific parameters available to the CTMO's Examiners.
Additionally, examiners are provided with new tools to counteract the rather common phenomenon in China of trademarks filed in bad faith, mainly by local dealers, distributors and licensors, exploiting commercial relations with legitimate trademark owners, who now will be able to rely upon opposition or invalidation actions in order to obtain rejection of the pirate mark.
The finding of the bad faith may also benefit from new criteria which should lead to the invalidation of the mark in cases where the applicant filed several other identical or similar marks with as many third-party trademarks or social names, insignia, trade names (recurring hypothesis in practice) or even where it has filed multiple marks with the obvious intent of subsequently transferring them to third parties for a high consideration or to claim damages arising from the use by "third parties" (who are the legitimate owners).
With the aim of protecting the consumer, it is finally established that a mark loses its force as a result of an administrative or judicial action or as a consequence of non-renewal, any application for an identical or closely similar filed by a third party within one year shall be rejected for lack in novelty.
We hope that these new criteria, as well as other normative developments recently introduced in Chinese law do not remain merely a theory but are translated with a reasonable speed in concrete applicability.