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    Trade marks in China – putting your business on the map

    How to prepare to enter one of the world’s biggest economies

    Growing importance in IP

    In response to the flourishing Chinese economy we have seen over the past three decades, a growing importance in IP has emerged. Compared with the 20,000 trademark registrations filed in 1983, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) reported closer to 700,000 in 2008. With the thriving economy it comes as no surprise that China now has 3,441,159 registered trademarks around a fifth of which are of foreign origin.

    Finding an equivalent trademark

    Needless to say, before entering the Chinese market, companies should prudently engage reliable local representation to ensure a seamless step into the foreign market and to ensure the brand name resonates with the Chinese consumer. Failure to do this may result in harmful and lasting consequences. A clear example of failure to do this is Ralph Lauren Polo who are now known in China as “San Jiao Ma” meaning three legged horse.

    Considering your options

    There are three options available to companies looking for a Chinese trademark to enter the Chinese market. The first is translating the trademark, for example Palmolive is known as Zang Lon, the literal translation of the words for palm and olive. The problem with literally translating the product name is that words that go together well in English may not resonate in the same way when translated. This method also runs into difficulty when faced with company names which are not actually words.

    The second option is transliterating the trademark. Transliterating a trademark is slightly more complicated and can also pose problems. Here, Chinese characters are chosen which sound as close as possible to the original brand name, for example Ferrari becomes “Fa La Li”. This method may, however, not reflect the assets of the product.

    The third option involves combining translating and transliterating with the result that the product will sound similar to the original brand name and will also refer to the qualities of the product, for example Coca Cola becomes “Ke Ku Ke Le” which translates as “allowing the mouth to rejoice”.


    Engaging trademarks registration experts with local Chinese representation to assist in finding an equivalent trademark is arguably imperative to the success of your brand when entering a foreign market. Native speaking professionals not only analyse language but also take into account availability of trademarks and the local jurisprudence.

    Humphreys & Co. 22.09.2010