2018 is the Year of the Dog in Chinese astrology. Dogs are cautious and prudent, and for intellectual property (IP) owners, prudence is a valuable trait to have when it comes to protecting your IP rights.
In China, copyright is often overlooked, but it can provide a substantial and inexpensive level of protection for prudent foreign IP owners.
What is copyright?
Copyright is an exclusive right given to creators of original works. It allows creators to control how and when their works can be copied and reproduced. Copyright is relevant for almost all businesses, not just those in the creative industry. Works such as written articles, videos, photographs, logos, design drawings, websites, and computer software can all be protected by copyright.
Copyright is unlike other IP rights, such as patents and designs that involve a registration process. Copyright protection arises automatically upon creation, publication, broadcast or performance of a work. There is no need to formally register your works in order to qualify for protection, and it extends automatically to most countries around the world. For example, if a work is created in New Zealand, it can enjoy copyright protection in China as well.
However, in some countries around the world, like the United States of America and China, copyright registers have been set up to record the details of copyright work and the owner.
Why register your copyright in China?
While you don’t need to register your copyright in order to qualify for protection, there are a number of good reasons to register your copyright in China. Here are seven of them:
- It provides evidential proof that you are the owner of the copyright work.
- It’s an essential prerequisite for enforcing your copyright in China, either through administrative or judicial routes.
- It can be helpful in enforcing your rights through initial cease and desist letters or online complaints to platforms like Alibaba. Our local associates report that, where the complainant provides a certificate of copyright registration, over 50% of infringers will cooperate after receiving an initial cease and desist letter, and most of the online platforms will take down the infringing links after receiving complaints.
- You can record your copyright registration with China’s General Administration of Customs. Doing so allows you or your agent to attend the customs trainings at specific locations where you know counterfeit products are being exported from. Educating customs officers about your rights can help with identifying and preventing those products from being exported from China.
- You can use your copyright registration as evidence of your prior rights in trade mark opposition and invalidation proceedings where a trade mark squatter has registered your trade mark in China.
- In some circumstances, copyright may protect design product drawings in China. This can be effective against counterfeit product manufacturers.
- It’s easier to take enforcement action at trade shows in China. Many trade shows have an IP helpdesk where IP owners can go to ask for counterfeit products at the trade fair to be removed. This does require the IP owner to have a Chinese certificate of registration.
Other points to note
Registration of copyright in China is administered by the Copyright Protection Centre of China and province offices. It can take a few months to process an application for registration of your copyright.
If you are thinking about trading with companies in China, you should protect your IP there as best as you can. This includes registering your copyright.
At AJ Park, we have a dedicated team of China IP experts who thrive on helping clients understand how best to protect, commercialise, and enforce their IP in China.