As a lawyer, as a jurist I perfectly know that evidence is the key to victory in a tribunal, that the form is as important as the substance. However, I still don't catch the reason of the hysteria behind trademark certificates in China.
There is not one day passing without receiving a request about trademark certificates. Every single day. Trademark certificates have a double soul, being the most unvalued thing by foreign companies and the most valued thing from Chinese companies.
The demand for trademark certificates is so strong that you can find vendors specialized is selling (fake) trademark certificates on Taobao. CNIPA's and attorneys' fees are high and so Taobao “see and provides” a different cheaper solution. Certificates themselves have value, regardless of the relative substantial right.
However, the question remains still here: why the trademark certificates are so important?
Any person can make a search with the public database of the CNIPA or some paid database and verify who is the owner of a certain trademark. Of course, it might need a certain set of skills and some basic knowledge, but I would say that the information is available online and any IP attorney could be able to provide such service (at a very reasonable price).
Even if what above is true, in China it is very common that your business counterpart will usually requires that you provide trademark certificates in relation to the product that you are going to sell. It is pure dogma. You want to sell a bike? You need to show the trademark certificate. You want to sell a cake? Trademark certificate first. A dress? Trademark certificate or nothing!
However, this routine, this habit is still underestimated by foreign companies. Whenever a Chinese counterpart asks for trademark certificates, the foreign company turn the face in a different direction, they ignore the request probably counting that will soon be forgotten. Or they probably think, why don't they check on the database instead of bothering me!?!
Also, often the managers of foreign companies become suspicious about such a request. If the trademark details are so easy to retrieve online why asking for the certificates? There must be a reason, maybe it is a kind of scam. Trademark squatting? Counterfeits?
We – as IP lawyers, as trademark attorneys – have this cultural challenge. We are in the friction point of these tectonic plaques, trying to explain to foreign companies making business in China that trademark certificates are very important here. And to Chinese companies we explain that foreign companies do not care at all at these plasticized yellow papers. Forget about it!
Yes, anyone can find online the details of the 30 million trademarks registered in China, but yet -anyhow- your client will demand that you provide the trademark certificates. Why? Not clear why, maybe because trademark certificates are one of the Alibaba's Group commandments.
And this is not all, in cauda venenum, there are differences in the trademark certificates. National trademarks have certain type of certificates, international trademark have different ones. And be aware T-Mall does not like international trademarks (they might accept if you insist, but firstly they ask the national trademark certificates). Changes to trademark details also come with different certificates (license, transfer, company name, address, etc.).
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