The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) issued Guidance on Signs Prohibited from Use as Trademarks on 19 January 2023(available here).

Shufang Zhang and Ling Zhao explain what it means and provide some examples of prohibited signs.

The Guidance is made in accordance with Article 10 of the China Trademark Law, which defines the "signs prohibited from use as trade marks". The Guidance specifies the categories of "signs prohibited from use as trademarks" and the legal liabilities of registering and using such signs.

"Signs prohibited from use as trademarks" as defined in Article 10 of the Trademark Law are forbidden from both registration and use.

The purpose of this article is to forbid the registration and use of signs that are damaging to the dignity of the State, harmful to public interests or order, detrimental to national unity, discriminating against religion, or against socialist morality or customs, or having other unhealthy influences.

The first provision of Article 10 mainly provides protection for special signs, such as the State name, and national emblem, anthem and flag of China, military flags, emblems and songs, names and signs of state organs of China, names and emblems of foreign states, names and signs of international intergovernmental organizations, signs of official warrant or control, Red Cross and Red Crescent.

This provision prohibits the registration and use of signs that are detrimental to public interests. The Guidance stresses that such signs are strictly forbidden from being registered or used as trade marks.

Where signs have various meanings or connotations, if there is one meaning or connotation against this provision, the sign is considered as a "trade mark prohibited from use".

The second provision of Article 10 defines limitations on registering and using geographical names as trade marks and the exceptions. The CNIPA has meanwhile issued Guidance on Registration and Using Trademarks Containing Geographical Names. The detailed information may refer to this Guidance.

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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.