China Trademarking that Resonates*

China trademark registration
                 Choose your China brand wisely

Trademarks protect your business name, product names, domain names, logos and slogans. If you are doing business with China or even just planning to do so, these all need to be a part of your China trademarking plan in both English and Chinese. Prior to filing though, it is important to thoroughly think through the branding you plan to use in China.

Picking a Chinese Name and Slogan

Your brand’s name, slogan and logo are likely to be the crusading identities of your brand in China, so picking the right components for these is imperative. Merely translating your brand name and slogan rarely works well for China because of the nuances in Chinese language. A straight translation may not resonate with your target audience and therefore, localization of your brand identity is a must, even if it’s only a small tweak.

Many counter that they will only use their English name in China, as Chinese will then attribute their product to being imported and therefore more valuable. The need for a Chinese name is still there. Even among English speakers in China, nearly all are more comfortable in their native language, especially when scanning a crowded shop shelf or shopping on their smartphone.

A Chinese name and slogan is also important for China’s animated social media landscape. If a brand becomes popular and does not have a Chinese name, the internet users of China are likely to pick a name for such brand and it could be something unsavory. You want to create your own social media friendly name before locals pick one for you.

There are numerous examples of Chinese names gone wrong, of which Airbnb is the latest, thus it is important to ensure the name resonates through on-the-ground testing with your target market. Brand names in China are important to consumers, much more so than in the West. It can make or break your sales and getting the right combination of brand meaning and pronunciation is a fine art when launching a product into Chinese markets.

Consider Your Logos and Leading Images

Localization should also be considered for logos as different images and colors can have powerful meanings and association that vary from one culture to another. Testing these images is imperative to developing China–specific and global marketing strategies. For example, many products use their county’s flag or map on their products. As many products have this signifying factor this may not set the product apart and worse, could even confuse or even offend Chinese consumers. They may not know what each flag or country shape represents.

Trademarking is recommended if you are interested in selling your product or your service in or to China and trademarking collateral that resonates should not be overlooked in this process.


* This post was written by Ann Bierbower of China Skinny. Chinny Skinny is a marketing, research and online agency based in Shanghai with offices in North America and Europe. I asked Ann to write this post because we are always emphasizing the need to register your brands and logos as trademarks in China from a legal perspective and I thought it would be good to have someone set out the branding case from a marketing perspective as well. I am a big fan of China Skinny’s newsletter; it is one of the few to which I subscribe.  

Dan Harris

Dan Harris is internationally regarded as a leading authority on legal matters related to doing business in China and in other emerging economies in Asia. Forbes Magazine, Business Week, Fortune Magazine, BBC News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Economist, CNBC, The New York Times, and many other major media players, have looked to him for his perspective on international law issues.