China: Intellectual Property Administrative Enforcement in China

Last Updated: 3 July 2007

Article by Aaron R. Wininger and Xiao Luo

Intellectual property (IP) infringement is a grave concern of multinational companies operating in China. Piracy is rife, and the loss of one's investment in developing IP can seriously hurt a company. As such, there are several methods of enforcing IP rights in China. Not only can a party sue in court for infringement or register its rights with Customs to prevent the export of infringing articles, an aggrieved party can also use the route of administrative enforcement, which tends to be fast and inexpensive. While administrative enforcement cannot give an IP right holder monetary damages, it nonetheless should be considered when speed and cost are issues and/or when the infringer may not have assets to satisfy a judgment.

TSB's Enforcement Against Counterfeits

The State Technical Supervision Bureau and its local counterparts (TSB) are responsible for administrative enforcement of counterfeits and other product quality problems, including labeling compliance.

Under the Product Quality Law, the manufacturers or sellers of products are prohibited from engaging in the following activities, which may infringe another party's intellectual property: (1) falsely designating the place of origin on the product packaging; (2) falsely stating the origin of the products as originating from a facility of another party; and (3) falsely using famous brand marks of another party.1 The Product Quality Law encourages any entity or individual to report to the TSB any violation of the law2 by submitting certain preliminary evidence of the alleged illegal activities. The TSB, based on such evidence, has the authority to conduct on-spot investigations, question the legal representative or key person in charge of the entity, and examine and copy all relevant contracts, invoices, and financial books of the entity.3 The TSB may also impose any or all of the following penalties if an actual violation is found: (1) issuance of an order to cease the manufacture or sale of the products; (2) confiscation of the products; (3) imposition of a fine equal to the value of the products that have been manufactured or sold; (4) cancellation of a business license; and (5) transference of the case to the Public Security Bureau should the activities violate criminal law.4

It generally takes about three to six months from official acceptance of the case for the authority to render a decision to the parties; however, if there is a raid action, the time-frame for a decision may be shortened to several days.5 In general, even when there is a raid action, it typically still takes several months for a decision to be made.

AIC's Enforcement Against Trademark Infringement

The State Administration of Industry and Commerce and its local counterparts (AIC) are responsible for the administrative enforcement of trademarks.

Scope of Investigation. Under the Trademark Law and the Implementation Regulations on Trademark Law, six kinds of activities are considered infringement of the exclusive right to use a trademark and therefore subject to the investigation of the AIC:

  • Using a trademark that is identical or similar to the registered trademark with respect to the same or similar goods without authorization of the registrant;
  • Selling goods knowing that a counterfeit trademark is being used as a registered trademark;
  • Forgery or falsification of representations of the registered trademark, or selling forged representations made without authorization of the trademark owner;
  • Replacing a registered trademark without consent from the registrant and marketing goods with the replaced trademark;6
  • Using, as a product or label, written script or a design that is identical or similar to the registered trademark of another person who uses it on the same or similar goods, with the similarity being sufficient to cause confusion; and
  • Intentionally providing services such as storage, transportation, postage, or harboring for those who have infringed the exclusive right of another person to use a registered trademark.7

Requirements to Launch an Investigation. Any person, including the trademark owner, may report to the AIC and request an investigation.8 However, such report must be accompanied by some preliminary evidence to get it put on the docket for investigation.9 Though it is unclear from the written laws as to what kind of documentation must be submitted, in practice the AIC usually requires the following materials: (1) Trademark Certificate and its copy (typically, a copy alone is sufficient); (2) basic information about the alleged infringer; (3) preliminary evidence and reasons for the alleged infringement (presumably, profit); (4) a Power of Attorney if the trademark owner is using an agent to act as a liaison with the AIC; and (5) a letter of complaint against the infringer. Furthermore, depending on the jurisdiction, an agent who acts as a liaison with the AIC may be required to have "trademark agent" on his or her business license. In addition, certain AIC offices may require all raid documents to be notarized in the home country of the trademark owner and then certified by the Chinese embassy of that country.

Penalties. If a reported case is successfully put on the docket for investigation, the AIC has the power to question the person involved, examine and copy all the contracts, invoices, financial books, or other materials that are related to the alleged infringement, conduct on-the-spot investigations, inspect the goods, and, if necessary, confiscate the goods.10 In practice, however, the most that the AIC does is seize the products; it typically does not thoroughly review documents and computer files. In general, the AIC does not have the capacity to conduct a professional forensic audit of accounting books and documents that may uncover more substantial evidence against the infringer. If an investigation reveals that infringement has occurred, the AIC may impose the following penalties:

  • Issue an order demanding the infringer to cease and desist its activities;
  • Confiscate and destroy products, advertising materials, and other tangible items that depict the infringing trademark;
  • Confiscate and destroy molds, dies, printing plates, or other tools that are specifically used to produce the registered trademark symbols;
  • Issue an order demanding the infringer to remove the registered trademark from goods that are involved in the infringement;
  • Issue a fine of no more than three times the amount of the illegal turnover of the infringer; if the illegal turnover can not be calculated, issue a fine of no more than 100,000 RMB; and
  • Transfer the case to the Public Security Bureau should the activities violate the criminal law.11

Upon the request of the trademark owner, the AIC may also conduct mediation between the parties in order to determine the appropriate amount of compensation to be paid by the infringing party. However, if mediation fails, the trademark owner may file a case to the people's court.12


In addition to considering enforcement via the courts in China, it may be worth considering other types of administrative enforcement action against IP infringers. During the course of an investigation the trademark owner may uncover other issues such as the use of child labor, safety and health concerns, or possible fire hazards. The trademark owner may consider using these issues as a basis to lodge a general complaint with the labor department, fire department, or other public authority. While these departments may not have the power to seize counterfeit products, there is some advantage in having them conduct a surprise inspection, which would disrupt production at the factory and may result in penalties for the non-IP issues. Furthermore, if counterfeits are found during the surprise visit the trademark owner will be in a better position to lodge a complaint with administrative bodies such as the TSB, AIC, or Public Security Bureau.


  1. Article 30,37 of the Product Quality Law.
  2. Article 10 of the Product Quality Law.
  3. Article 18 of the Product Quality Law.
  4. Article 53 of the Product Quality Law.
  5. Please note that there is no timeframe on the written laws. This timeframe comes from an inquiry from the Shanghai TSB and Shanghai AIC. Timeframes may be different in other jurisdictions.
  6. Article 52 of the Trademark Law.
  7. Article 50 of the Implementation Regulation on Trademark Law.
  8. Article 51 of the Implementation Regulation on Trademark Law.
  9. Article 55 of the Trademark Law.
  10. Article 55 of the Trademark Law.
  11. Article 53, 54 of the Trademark Law, Article 40, 52 of the Implementation Regulation on Trademark Law.
  12. Article 53 of the Trademark Law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions