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Trade fairs are a great way to gain access to an international market. Exhibitors can market their products, carry out a competitor and market analysis, compare products and gain ideas and suggestions.


However, imitations are also catching up quickly, resulting in conflicts between the legitimate right holders and the imitator. Therefore, the development of an IP protection strategy is an equally important part of the preparation for a trade fair.





Status of the property rights of the exhibition product


Both Germany and China have ratified the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and are members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Therefore, the same legal framework applies to exhibitors from both countries.


As exhibitors, before you get ready for the trade fair, you should clarify the following questions:


  1. Do your exhibition products have property rights?
  2. Do your exhibition products have third-party rights?
  3. Are the third-party property rights properly licensed?
  4. Are its own property rights properly registered and valid?
  5. Are its own property rights or licensed property rights effectively extended to the country of the trade fair?
  6. Are there any non-registrable property rights in the exhibition products?
  7. Are the unregistered or non-registered property rights properly documented?


Categories of IP rights


Technical property rights


Technical property rights are patents, utility models as well as design protection. These can be registered in Germany as well as in China, but in order to be valid in other countries, they must be extended to the related country as well. Without registration of the intellectual property rights in China, no legal enforcement is possible.


In China, there is also the possibility, as an alternative to the judicial procedure, to file an administrative procedure. This is can be done at the Office for Protection of Intellectual Property (SIPO) and at its local branches.


Trademark protection


The same applies to trademark. The trademark registration should be extended to the host country of the trade fair in order to be legally enforceable. This is possible both in Germany and China to register through the Madrid system for international trademark registration for WIPO. However, the brand should also be registered in China, since other parties can otherwise secure the trademark rights. (See our article on the Madrid System in China)


Moreover, brand protection in China, unlike in Germany, does not begin with the use of the trademark, but only after the approval of the registration. In the case of legal problems, the alternative to the judicial procedure is to file an administrative procedure. This is can be done at the Trademark Office (CTMO).


Intellectual property rights


Copyrights are, in principle, rights which can be protected even without registration. For exhibitors in China, there is a special opportunity to voluntarily register your copyright. This serves as a proof only in case of a dispute but is a cost-effective additional insurance which may save process costs. Again, as an alternative to the judicial process in China, it is possible to file an administrative procedure. This is can be done at the Office for Copyright Administration (NCAC).


Preparation of documents


If IP protection rights in the exhibition product are not documented in detail, it is often not possible to clarify conflicts of intellectual property rights during the short duration period at the trade fair.


Proper IP protection documentation should include the following:


  1. Registration document of intellectual property rights (IPR)
  2. Proof of the validity of the IPR
  3. Proof of ownership of property rights


Exhibitors should bring the documents to the trade fair in the original or notarized form; possibly also with translation. This also applies to the proof of entitlement that the exhibitor or the company of the exhibitor is the holder of the IP-protection right and/or the IP-protection right of a third party. In the case of non-registered IP rights, documents could be useful to the right-holder as well as to the time of the first publication.


Measures for IP conflicts on site


In China, trade fairs with a duration of more than three days must set up a free complaint center for exhibitors. Local officials from the local authority can immediately take actions to prevent violations of an exhibitor's rights and to secure evidence. If you become aware of any potential IP infringements at the show, please report them immediately to the complaint center.


For exhibitors in China, it is also important that the Chinese customs may, at the request of the proprietor, confiscate products if there is an obvious breach of industrial property rights. The release of the products can then be achieved within 20 days by filling a judicial proceeding.


ECOVIS Beijing is a German-Chinese consultancy firm specialized in law, tax, accounting and financial statements. If you have any further questions regarding the protection of intellectual property, you can always contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Richard Hoffmann

Richard Hoffmann is a partner at ECOVIS Beijing China. Richard obtained an honors degree in law and worked in Germany, the United States, and China for various prestigious law firms prior to joining ECOVIS. In addition to being a member of the board of ECOVIS International, he is Supervisor for the China business of a respected German company and shares his extensive knowledge to students by teaching commercial law in China at SRH Hochschule Heidelberg. He has published more than fifty articles in international magazines, frequently speaks at high profile events in China and abroad and is often invited as a legal expert by international TV stations. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ecovis Beijing is the trusted tax and legal advisor to several embassies and official institutions in China. It specializes in mid-sized international companies and is focused on tax & legal advisory, accounting and auditing. If you’re interested in finding out more about tax and legal, don’t hesitate to sign up for our Newsletter, give us a call +86 (10) 6561 6609 or contact us directly via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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