China Customs has had its new online intellectual property protection system (New Recordal System) up and running since 1 March 2014. The New Recordal System, which can be accessed at http://202.127.48.148/, has been developed – based on the existing online recordal system (Old Recordal System) – with a view to achieving better reliability and information accuracy of the trademark, patent and copyright recordal records of the Customs of the People's Republic of China.

Under the New Recordal System, all Customs recordal applications, renewals, cancellations, changes to particulars, changes of agent, etc. can be completed online, making it a true paperless system. In the past, the system was primarily paper-based; for example, for a fresh recordal application, an IPR owner had to complete the recordal application online, print and sign the application form and submit it together with a signed Power of Attorney, the contact person's ID copy (with his or her signature thereon) and documentary proof of payment of the application fee to the General Administration of Customs (GAC) in Beijing for processing. Paper filings were also required to make changes to the online account details, IPR owner's particulars or contact information.

Hardcopy applications were often piled up on officials' desks, making it extremely difficult for applicants to check on the status of their applications. Furthermore, it was hardly possible for GAC officials to respond in a timely manner to any telephone or email enquiries due to their heavy workload.

With the new system in place, it is expected that the filing logistics will be much simplified and expedited. IPR owners can now easily maintain, modify or update their recordals themselves through the click of a mouse. An automated paperless system should also help reduce risks of human error and delay.

The transition from the old to the new system took place between 17 and 28 February 2014, during which time China Customs suspended operation of the Old Recordal System and refused to accept new recordal filings.

Existing account holders under the Old Recordal System can continue to use their original login IDs and passwords to access the New Recordal System. If an IPR owner has registered an account through the old system without having completed the paper filing and payment, they will need to register a new account and re-file under the New Recordal System.

It is particularly noteworthy that the New Recordal System requires patent owners to submit documentary proof of patent annuities payment to ensure that the relevant patents recorded with Customs remain valid and are duly entitled to Customs protection. For patents recorded prior to 31 January 2013, patent owners are required to submit documentary proof in support of the patents' validity on or before 31 May 2014; and for patents recorded between 1 February 2013 and 17 February 2014, patent owners must file the necessary proof no later than 31 December 2014. If a patent owner fails to comply with this requirement prior to the prescribed deadline, their existing Customs recordal will be terminated but they will still have a right to restore the said recordal upon provision of the required document(s) within the original recordal validity period.

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