Registering a trademark in the United States is insufficient to protect the interests of a New Jersey company that wants to market goods and services overseas, especially in China. Chinese law defends the intellectual property rights of those entities that register a claim within the country first. This means that a Chinese company can claim a trademark recognized in the U.S. as long as it does it before the creator of the brand. A U.S. company entering China could then be forced to buy the rights from the holder of the Chinese version of the trademark.
This common tactic is known as trademark squatting. Chinese companies usually register a Chinese version of the brand name that might not represent an exact copy of the U.S. trademark. For example, the Michael Jordan brand in China was trademarked by a company called Qiaodan Sports. Qiaodan is how the Chinese say Jordan.
Companies expanding into China should register their claims in multiple forms to reflect their official brand names and the Chinese transliteration or phonetic versions. Trademark squatters also register brands in related versions and subcategories, which further deepens their hold on an outside company’s ability to claim rights to goods and services.
Companies might avoid trademark squatters by registering their intellectual property in China as soon as possible and claiming as many versions and subcategories as they can afford. Litigation to challenge infringement that is already in process has proven costly and time-consuming, and Chinese authorities tend to side with domestic entities that filed first.
A person or company wishing to defend intellectual property internationally may benefit from the services of an attorney knowledgeable about trademark law. Legal support could help an individual or business document claims to intellectual property and navigate the bureaucracies for registering these claims in other countries.