part of my work involves monitoring companies’ trademarks and making sure that others do not register similar marks to parasite brand recognition. with increasing frequency, i encounter and challenge chinese companies that are trying to register marks (abroad or domestically) similar to those that i'm trying to protect.
today, the wall street journal reports one likely cause for what i see: the chinese government pays its citizens hundreds of dollars for each trademark they register in the united states. wow. in one example, the chinese city of shenzen pays its residents about $800 for each trademark they register in the united states.
unsurprisingly, chinese-based filings at the united states patent and trademark office (uspto) have simply exploded:
mark cohen—a china-focused intellectual property expert at berkeley law school and former senior counsel at the uspto—states that trademark subsidies are part of china’s "planned approach to intellectual property," which is "highly metric and numbers-oriented.”
the wsj article quotes uspto officials as saying that many of these trademark applications “seem to be not legitimate”, and further details a number of sketchy trademark applicant practices in this area. many of the sketchy trademark applications simply aren’t caught in, or filtered by, the uspto trademark examination process. when the trademarks do register, they provide crucial benefits like enhanced search engine optimization and competitiveness on seller platforms key to utah's entrepreneurs like amazon.com.
if there weren’t already enough good reasons to act to protect brands and trademarks, this wsj article highlights the importance of: (1) taking proper and early steps to protect brands, and trademarks, and then (2) implementing a robust trademark and brand monitoring system.