Last updated: 
6 December 2019

Intellectual property registration and protection can be complex, especially in overseas markets. We recommend you seek advice from an IP professional regarding your specific circumstances.

Protecting intellectual property (IP) should be a key part of any business strategy for China. While China remains a challenging market, IP protection has been improving.

The key fundamentals in China are to register your IP rights as early as possible, use strong contracts, and actively enforce against infringers. IP Australia’s PDF guide Protecting your IP in China contains a summary of our key messages. The links below provide more detailed information on specific topics.

IP rights in China 

IP rights are territorial, meaning an Australian trade mark, patent or design only provides protection in Australia. In order to protect your IP rights in China, you need to register them in China. Registering IP rights in China as early as possible can save significant time and money later. 

Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau all have separate legal systems. Protection in each territory requires separate registrations.

Legal agreements for China

China’s legal system has many differences from Australia’s legal system. It’s important to have experienced Chinese legal advisors provide advice on contracts and other legal matters. Australian legal counsel can work with Chinese lawyers, or you can go directly to a Chinese or international firm.

Enforcing your rights in China

If you’ve registered your IP rights in China, and protected your IP using strong contracts, you will be well positioned to enforce your IP rights in China.

IP rights are private property rights, so IP owners are responsible for enforcing their IP. Australians can seek assistance from the Chinese enforcement authorities for support to enforce their IP rights in China without the involvement of the Australian government.

Enforcement in China can take many different forms, from an online program to monitor e-commerce platforms and request the take down of infringing listings, through to working with Chinese authorities to conduct raids and seize IP-infringing goods. Different enforcement actions will have different costs and benefits, and the most appropriate actions may differ for each IP owner’s situation.

To take action against the manufacture and sale of IP-infringing goods, the IP owner may gather and document evidence of infringement, and provide the evidence to Chinese authorities, to seek support in taking action against the infringer. This is usually most effective when supported by experienced local legal advisers and investigators.

Domain names

Domain names are identifiers or addresses rather than IP rights. They can be useful in reaching Chinese consumers and raising the visibility of your business in China. It can be important to protect domain names to prevent them being misused by domain name squatters or counterfeiters.

Topic-specific IP guides

Webinars

IP Australia’s webinars provide further information on protecting intellectual property in China.

All IP Australia’s webinar recordings to date can be accessed here.

Further support 

IP Australia’s Beijing-based IP Counsellor provides IP support for Australian businesses in China. For more information, or to discuss your specific situation, contact MDB-IPCounsellor-China@ipaustralia.gov.au.

Other support

  • Austrade have offices across Greater China to support Australian companies. Austrade can help Australian businesses understand the Chinese market and consumer preferences, provide introductions to potential local partners, and other services.
  • Business.gov.au is a one stop shop to connect businesses with information, grants, and support. This includes the Australian government’s Export Market Development Grants, which provides export-ready companies with reimbursement for up to 50 per cent of eligible export promotion expenses, including costs of registering IP rights in overseas markets.