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Trademark system in need of ‘improvement’

Trademark squatting in China has become one of the key problems troubling enterprises at home and those overseas who want to enter the Chinese market, members of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) said during a panel discussion at the ongoing two sessions held in Beijing.

Yuan Yafei, a member of the CPPCC industry and commerce group and an entrepreneur, said on Monday that many companies now rush to register trademarks and don't really use them, making it hard for the brands who need the trademarks to get one.

In Yuan's opinion, purchasing trademarks without using them is harmful to innovation and encourages opportunistic behavior.

Applying for trademark registration by just changing one or two words of a famous brand is another problem, according to Li Hanyu, chairman of the Guizhou provincial federation of industry and commerce.

For example, Chinese food brand Lao Gan Ma, meaning "old adopted mother," has become famous in China and abroad, so someone applied to trademark the brand Lao Gan Die, meaning "old adopted father," said Li at the meeting on Monday.

It has become hard for a new brand to register a four-character trademark in China, not to mention two-character ones, Wang Zihua, a CPPCC member and chairman of Jingaogang Group, said during the discussion.

Yuan noted that some overseas enterprises can't enter the Chinese market because their trademarks have already been registered by small companies in China, making it impossible to use their real trademark in the country.

China should adjust the trademark registration system from registration priority to user priority, enabling the enterprises who first used the trademark to enjoy the rights to it, Yuan suggested at the CPPCC panel discussion.

"In the past we didn't pay attention to trademark issues, but all these years later it has become a problem," Yuan said, noting that "those who first use a trademark should have the rights to it."

Liu Junchen, deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, said the administration will set up a database of the country's trademark names, so that enterprises do not need to go to service windows to check.

Also, Liu mentioned a future amendment to the trademark law in order to curb trademark squatting.

There were over 5.75 million trademark applications in 2017, up 55.7 percent from 2016 and reaching the highest level in history, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce said at a press conference it held in January.

By the end of 2017, China had 14.92 million effective trademark registrations among a total of 17.3 million that had been approved.

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