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China will redouble efforts to protect its trademarks overseas, as the world's largest manufacturer increasingly places its own branded products on the global market, the country's top industry and commerce administrator said on Thursday.

Chinese enterprises registered 11,000 trademarks overseas through the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks - the primary system for registering trademarks in multiple jurisdictions throughout the world - from 1996 to the end of November.

According to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), China will have the seventh highest number of registrations with the Madrid System once it files 200 more applications. "As China's opening-up broadens out, it is becoming a major trading country with a rising number of trademarks," said Fu Shuangjian, deputy director of the SAIC.

A corollary of the process is that the rising number of trademarks increases the likelihood of their being infringed upon, he said.

A trademark is one of the three core components of intellectual property rights. The other two are the copyrights and patent rights.

The higher risk to Chinese trademarks underscores the importance of the administration assisting domestic enterprises register their applications and redoubling efforts to protect Chinese brands, Fu said.

The SAIC issued a notice in October calling for Chinese enterprises to step up the registration of their trademarks overseas and for a mechanism to be devised that will enable these trademarks to enforce their rights.

According to Li Jianchang, chief of the SAIC trademark office, last year the administration successfully prevented 52 Chinese enterprises from having their names registered as trademarks in Canada.

In October and November, the SAIC also sought international cooperation in preventing two Chinese trademarks from being registered by foreign companies.

The first involved an effort to register Zhejiang Vinegar in South Korea and the second concerned a bid to register the Confucius Institute in Costa Rica.

The SAIC is currently assisting 28 well-known Chinese companies regain their trademarks, which were registered with the African Intellectual Property Organization, Li said.

There are a number of Chinese companies that lack familiarity with overseas registration rules and are unaware of how to protect their intellectual property rights, he said.

The SAIC plans to increase its assistance to Chinese companies to enable them to learn how to safeguard their rights in other countries, especially when trademark disputes end up being dragged through the courts, rather than resolved by government administrators.

Along with a rising number of Chinese enterprises registering their trademarks through the Madrid System, China has granted 153,000 international trademark registrations channeled through the same system.

Over six successive years, China granted the highest number of international trademark registrations through the Madrid System, Li said, pledging to protect international companies in China as well as seeking to secure protection for Chinese companies overseas.

(China Daily December 10, 2010)

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