Visual trademarks law may boost creativity

Updated: 2013-06-27 07:12

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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Companies in China may soon be able to register unique and familiar tunes - such as Windows' start-up music and Nokia's preset ringtones - as audio trademarks.

The move is included in a draft amendment to Trademark Law submitted on Wednesday to the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

If approved by lawmakers, the amendment will for the first time remove the requirement that trademarks must be visual, said Wu Qun, of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, at a forum this month.

Experts say the amendment could help boost creativity among Chinese companies.

Zhang Zhifeng, an intellectual property rights lawyer in Beijing, said that although trademarks for sounds, smells and other products are common in many countries, the concept is still new in China, where companies may face difficulties protecting their rights.

He said he is concerned about how a trademark holder will be able to prove an infringement on their intellectual property rights.

"The problem should be addressed before the draft is passed," he added.

Wednesday's draft also proposes increases of financial penalties for trademark infringements. The maximum fine was doubled from the suggestion in the first draft to 2 million yuan ($325,400). The current maximum fine stands at 50,000 yuan.

Zhang Wanxin, an official at the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, said the past decade has seen a near-twentyfold increase in the number of trademark agencies in China. About 9,000 general agencies and 8,000 law firms in China are currently engaged in intellectual property services related to trademarks.

A total of 1.5 million trademark applications are filed by these agencies each year, but the industry is still plagued by an excess of market players, low levels of professionalism and misconduct of some agencies, Zhang Wanxin said.