Food Brand Protection in China – There are many consequences of a growing middle class in China. One effect is that many firms that source goods from China are witnessing an increase in the cost of sourcing products there. Another effect is that for international food producers, China is becoming a market with massive opportunities to develop and grow sales successfully. Many foreign companies have invested vast sums of money in establishing their brand in China. In China, one of the significant challenges posed to many international producers is the threat that sellers in China will sell fake products and claim that they are original. In my more than 20 years of doing business in China, I have witnessed this across many types of products, from fake alcohol brands and fake shellfish to counterfeit rice. It is incredible what can and will be copied in China.
So the explicit goal of any firm that sells food in China. It is to try and have control of their products or have whole farm-to-fork traceability of their food products as it moves along the food supply chain within China. However, in the real world, this is not always entirely achievable. So, the next best thing is to establish a visible preventative and cross-checking set of measures to reduce the likelihood of food tampering or copied food being sold within China.
There are vital steps that firms should adopt for their food brand protection in China:
- Trademark Your Food Brand in China
- Be actively monitoring your Brands in China
- Conduct due diligence on partners and importers in China
- Educate Staff on the importance of Brand Awareness
- Know where to enforce your contracts.
Trademark Your Food Brand in China
It is essential to research existing trademarks in China before deciding if you want to promote your food brand in China. If another firm has registered a business’ mark or a similar mark. You will have to decide to try and purchase the brand name from the trademark holder or enter into China under a different brand.
It is vital to be aware that China operates its trade mark registration system on a first-to-register basis and not a first to use. This means that a person with no connection to your brand or product can register and claim the brand in China. So, it is crucial to commence a trademark registration process in China, which can take 18 months to complete, before launching your product in China.
Be actively monitoring Your Brands in China.
One of the necessary actions to protect your food brand in China is actively monitoring and watching for any infringements. It is essential to conduct both online and offline monitoring to protect your brand.
For offline monitoring, you can send your Staff or third-party agents into markets and other areas of trade to check brands. I have spent a lot of time in markets in Shanghai and other cities and have found numerous traders selling fake food branded products which belonged to my clients.
For online monitoring, online access to trade mark registries in China is free. My team are often employed by our clients to monitor eCommerce sites to identify any firms selling fake food brands.
When we have identified online or offline firms selling fake brands, we have a set of steps and procedures to address these offenders. If you are experiencing incidents of this to your brand and require assistance to resolve these issues, please contact me.
Conduct due diligence on partners and importers in China
I have seen many traders import food brands from a foreign producer not only to sell the brand but also to copy the brand and sell fake products. This practice is rife in many types of products. Some traders will import a small batch of the genuine product and then mix in counterfeit products to increase the brand’s volume. This practice is dangerous and can quickly destroy an innocent firm’s reputation.
Therefore, you must conduct proper due diligence and risk assessment on any potential buyer or trading partner in China. Firms like our company or Goodada Inspections provide specialist Buyer Verification services.
Educate Your Staff on the importance of Brand Awareness
Interestingly in China, the protection of brands is not treated as seriously as it does in Western countries. Therefore, any company must educate its Staff on the importance of why a brand needs to be protected. But it must not stop there. All Staff should work with your China customers to communicate the benefits and importance of brand protection to their businesses.
Know where to enforce your contracts.
A contract of trading terms, including references to trademarks, is vital when selling into China. It is advisable to have a bi-lingual contract that includes locations where disputes are to be dealt with. I always advise clients to have their cases heard in China as this offers better in-country enforcement measures. This will ensure that they can maximise their food brand protection in China.
So, Food Brand Protection in China – Over to You
Irrespective of the risks, China has a colossal middle-class, and for many Food firms, this offers enormous opportunities. However, it is vital for all food firms to conduct risk assessments, including brand risk, continuously. Since 2004 TCI China has been providing China Trademark Services to international Food firms. If you would like to have a complimentary 15-minute call with me to discuss your China Trade Mark, please contact me below.
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Or at the following numbers:
(Europe/ Rest of the World) +353 1 885 3919
(North America) +1.518.290.6604
Or email me, Aidan Conaty