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ASIALLIANS: Administrative sanction against malicious preemptive trademark registration

In its latest legal news update, ASIALLIANS lays out everything you need to know about the Special Action Against Malicious Preemptive Trademark Registration (the “Action”) launched by the China National Intellectual Property Administration (the “CNIPA”).


1. Target of the Action: Malicious preemptive registration of the following words/signs:2

(1) the name/title of national or regional strategies, major activities, major policies, or major projects;

(2) the words/signs related to public emergences (such as natural disasters, major accidents and disasters, major public health events and social security events);

(3) the names/signs of major matches or exhibitions with high popularity;

(4) the names of administrative divisions,3 mountains, rivers, scenic spots, buildings or other public resources;

(5) the common names or trade terms of goods or services;

(6) the names of celebrities,4 well-known works or characters with high popularity;

(7) trademark or other commercial mark with high popularity or strong significance of others, and therefore damaging the prior rights and interests of others;

(8) words/signs violating public order and good customs, causing significant negative social impact on China’s political, economic, cultural, religious, ethnic and other social public interests and public order5;

(9) words/signs obviously violating the principle of good faith (Catch-all Term).

2. Sanction: Credit black records6

China has gradually set up a social credit system to evaluate citizens and enterprises based on their social, political, commercial and legal activities. Under the Action, administrative punishments7 for malicious trademark registration will be added to people’s or entities’ social credit records.8

Further, the Action regulates trademark agencies committing malicious preemptive trademark registration by suspending the agencies’ license for trademark agency business in case of serious circumstances.

Administration for Market Regulation (the “AMR”) sanctions come after the trademark registration department decides that the trademark registration is malicious. To be specific, the trademark registration department (Trademark Office, or, Trademark Review and Adjudication Board) decides whether the preemptive registration is malicious upon receiving the opposition or invalidation against the concerned registration/application; where the target of the action occurs, the trademark registration departments may make internal referral to local AMRs for further administrative punishment against the applicant.



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1 Malicious Preemptive Trademark Registration deserves the attention from foreign companies. For example, trademark squatting referring to trademark squatter or someone else registers your trademark in China is specially a huge threat to foreign companies dealing with Chinese partners (importer, distributor, agent, franchisee, etc.) given they have to go through exhausting process (filing opposition or invalidation) to win their trademarks back when they need to use their own trademark/brand in China.

2 Article 2 of the Action

3 Under Article 10 of PRC Trademark Law, the geographical names of administrative divisions at or above the county level and foreign geographical names well-known to the public shall not be used as trademarks, except for geographical names that contain other meanings or constitute parts of a collective mark or certification mark.

4 In recent years, some Chinese celebrities’ names were maliciously preemptively registered by someone, for example, Huang Bo (黄渤), a Chinese famous actor, Tu Youyou (屠呦呦), a Chinese Nobel Prize winner.

5 It is also regulated under Article 10 of PRC Trademark Law, the following signs shall not be used as trademarks: 1) Those identical with or similar to the PRC’s state name, national flag, national emblem, national anthem, military flag, army emblem, military songs, medals etc.; those identical with the names and signs of PRC central state organs, names of the specific locations thereof, or those identical with the names or device of landmark buildings; 2) Those identical with or similar to the state names, national flags, national emblems or military flags of foreign countries, unless permitted by the government of the country; 3) Those identical with or similar to the names, flags, or emblems of international inter-governmental organizations, unless permitted by the organization concerned or unlikely to mislead the public; 4) Those identical with or similar to an official sign or inspection seal that indicates control and guarantee, unless it is authorized; 5) Those identical with or similar to the names or signs of the Red Cross or the Red Crescent; 6) Those of discrimination against any race; 7) Those of fraud that may easily mislead the public in the characteristics such as the quality of goods, or place of production; and 8) Those detrimental to socialist morals or customs, or having other unhealthy influences.

6 Article 3 of the Action

7 The administrative punishments, such as order to rectify, warning, fine, are made by AMRs at or above the county level in the place where the trademark agency is located or where the malicious registration takes place. Article 12 of Several Provisions on Regulating the Application for Registration of Trademarks.

8 The portals for checking the credit record of an entity mainly include: CreditChina (, it lists out administrative license, administrative punishment, award for trustworthy, penalty for dishonesty, risk indications, qualification, etc. of the entity, National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System (, it provides very comprehensive overview of each entity’s social credit information.