September 22, 2023

Crypto emblems are a no-go in China. In step with the nation’s prohibitions on cryptocurrencies, the China Nationwide Mental Property Administration (CNIPA) will not register emblems that describe crypto items and/or providers. Manufacturers within the crypto house have to be aware of this actuality when crafting model and mental property rights safety methods for China.

China banned cryptocurrencies in 2021. Consequently, functions to register emblems that describe crypto items and/or providers are being rejected by CNIPA. At first look, these rejections would seem like in step with China’s Trademark Legislation. Article 10(i)(7) prohibits the registration of emblems “detrimental to socialist morality or customs, or having different unhealthy influences.” Curiously, nevertheless, CNIPA doesn’t all the time cite Article 10(i)(7) when rejecting crypto trademark functions.

Within the case of 1 software rejected on each crypto and descriptiveness grounds, CNIPA didn’t cite Article 10(i)(7), however did cite the Trademark Legislation’s prohibition in opposition to descriptive marks. We have now additionally seen situations the place CNIPA solely cites the procedural sections of the Trademark Legislation.

It’s doable that CNIPA, or not less than a few of its examiners, don’t view crypto emblems as inherently violative of Article 10(i)(7), and as an alternative apply a standalone prohibition in opposition to crypto. Maybe acutely aware of the truth that sooner or later the authorities might resolve to take a softer stance on crypto, CNIPA might not need to go as far as to label it detrimental. CNIPA will typically cite Article 10(i)(7), however within the circumstances now we have seen to this point, the applying has additionally been rejected on deceptiveness grounds – and it might be that which triggers the Article 10(i)(7) concern.

This all mentioned, my expertise within the public sector taught me to not overanalyze the actions of bureaucratic actors. The underside line is that the trademark just isn’t going to be registered, regardless of what number of and/or which Trademark Legislation articles are cited. As Deng Xiaoping mentioned, “Irrespective of if it’s a white cat or a black cat; so long as it may well catch mice, it’s a good cat.”

With crypto manufacturers conscious of this panorama, they want to make sure that their items and providers descriptions are drafted in a means that makes them more likely to go muster for a China trademark. For one, this implies avoiding phrases comparable to “cryptocurrency”.

To be clear, the concept right here is to not attempt to pull the wool over CNIPA’s eyes. Relatively, it’s to keep away from conditions the place Web3 expertise and providers which have functions that stretch past crypto are outlined too narrowly, in a means that deprives the model of trademark safety.

On this sense, manufacturers needs to be notably cautious with Madrid functions. One of many advantages of nationwide functions (that’s, these filed instantly with CNIPA) is that they permit trademark homeowners to tailor their functions to China’s particular necessities. Avoiding China-specific restrictions on crypto emblems is a textbook instance of a state of affairs the place a model would need to do this.

For sure, so long as China’s prohibition on crypto stands, nobody needs to be stepping into that enterprise in China. Manufacturers within the wider Web3 house, alternatively, ought to take care to make sure that references to crypto don’t jeopardize the safety of their emblems that additionally (or solely) describe items and/or providers that aren’t associated to crypto.