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Trademark filings in Hubei increase despite pandemic disruption

Yuan Shenggao
Updated: Oct 15,2020 09:47 AM    China Daily

Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hubei province, which was hit hardest in China, has reported a considerable growth in trademark filings.

Data from the Hubei Intellectual Property Bureau show more than 88,380 trademark applications were filed in the province in the first half of 2020. It marks an increase of 9.49 percent from the same period of 2019.

As a result, the province scaled up its inventory of valid trademarks to some 605,700 by the end of June, a 24.2 percent rise year-on-year.

Of them, 387 have been granted the status of well-known trademarks; 326 were registered overseas via the Madrid system; and 459 are geographical indications, covering 165 types of products.

GI is a sign used on products that have a specific origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that, as the World Intellectual Property Organization defines.

Hubei ranks third in China by number of GI trademarks and second in terms of the types of GI-marked products.

The province in Central China has increased its efforts in IP and brand-building strategies in recent years. They are attempting to promote a shift from "Hubei products" to "Hubei brands", said Cheng Hao, deputy chief of the provincial IP bureau.

Since 2016, local authorities have opened reception desks throughout the province to deal with trademark-related businesses. Their proximity to the market has greatly reduced the cost of trademark registration.

In Xiangyang in 2017, trademark agencies charged more than 3,000 yuan ($450) for registering a trademark. Now the amount has dropped to 600-800 yuan, said Guo Fangfang, head of the city's IP administration.

The falling price in trademark registration has sparked enthusiasm for brand building in the local business community, she added.

Government data show that despite the pandemic, nearly 5,520 new trademark applications from the city were filed between January and July, a growth of 22.4 percent year-on-year.

Enquiries and applications handled at the city's trademark reception desks during those seven months outnumbered the total of 2019 by more than 40 percent.

Among the applicants that gave the thumbs-up to local IP services is Huitian Adhesive. The local company, founded in 1977, evolved from a research institution. According to its official website, it has exported products to more than 10 countries.

The company has registered 18 trademarks this year, with the application and approval procedures all completed online, said Cheng Hao, board secretary of the company.

The high efficiency in registering trademarks helps support the resumption of the company's overseas business and maintain its industrial and supply chains, Cheng said.

To help local companies expand abroad, the provincial IP bureau launched a training program. It invited senior officials from the World Intellectual Property Organization, which governs the Madrid international trademark system, to give lectures. In 2019, 136 export-oriented businesses in the province participated.

Angel Yeast, a Yichang-headquartered company, is one of the largest yeast suppliers in the country, with exports to more than 150 countries and regions.

"In our exploration abroad, we use words commonly accepted in the destination countries to register trademarks so that they can be easily recognized by local customers," said Chen Jia, an executive at the company.

The company's brand internationalization strategy — which focuses on trademarks' registration in advance, standard usage and effective protection — provides Angel Yeast with safe access to overseas markets, Chen said.

To date, the company has filed more than 1,280 international trademark applications and 916 of them have been granted, according to the executive.

Zhuo Wankai is general manager of tea producer Feiqiang in Lichuan, Hubei province. He said that during the first eight months of 2020, his company's sales revenue increased by 9 percent compared to the same period of last year.

Its established brands are playing a key role in helping the company buck trends amid the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve sales growth, Zhuo said.

Another tea producer in the province, Enshi Runbang, generated more than 30 million yuan in sales in the spring of 2020, according to the company.

Except for Taiwan, Enshi Yulu, a signature product that combines modern technical standards and ancient tea-making skills, has been sold to all parts of China, the company said.

This year witnessed the largest regional coverage of Enshi Yulu sales in China since Runbang's founding in 2005, said Zhang Wenqi, general manager of the company in Enshi city.

The growth, mainly driven by online sales, shows that Enshi Yulu, which is a GI product, has captured the hearts of customers, Zhang said.

He attributed this to the company's reputation through quality and branding after years of effort.

Peng Quan, head of the provincial IP bureau, said Hubei is advancing a three-year campaign to help improve business brands and inspire creativity and innovation.

The province aims to capitalize on brands' power to boost the resumption of the local economy, Peng said.