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Published on October 2, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Selling beer to China

Late last year, a delegation of North East brewers – Box Social, Camerons and Hadrian Border breweries, along with Luke Smith from Poetic License gin distillery – travelled to China to assess the export market. Continuing the dialogue, Richard Sice from Sunderland-based North East Business Innovation Centre, consulted legal experts in the country, including Ms Wenli Xie from Shanghai law firm T&S Law.

She said: “China is the world’s most dynamic marketplace with a growing affluent population which has an increasing taste for British craft beer. In 2017, China imported £45.9m worth of beer ‘representing a remarkable 127% increase year-on-year’, according to www.thedrinksbusiness.com earlier this year.

“With growing awareness of the opportunity for UK brewers comes the need to be best prepared when selling to China, so a few questions need to be answered.”

Q. How can foreign enterprises protect their brands’ rights and interests in China?

A. If a UK brewer wants to trade with China, a trademark registration is a must. China applies the first to register a basis for trade protection. This means that the legal owner of the brand mark is the first to file for protection regardless as to whether they own that mark of beer in the UK.

If the UK brewer is prepared to fight this in relevant administrative departments in government and/or the law courts in China it can be expensive, time-consuming, and the results can not be guaranteed. However, it is straightforward and relatively inexpensive to protect your brand at the start of your trade with China. It is necessary to have this done by a law firm/agent with an official legal status and legitimate qualification in China.

Q. In addition to trademark registration protection, is there any other protection of brands?  

A. Your copyright such as the artwork, design and unique appearance of your brand can be protected under copyright law. By getting both copyright and trademark registration you will have double security of your brand and it is often more cost effective to have this done at the same time.

Q. Who can help a UK brewer protect its brands in China?

A. Choosing a professional law firm with a lot of experience in intellectual protection rights is the best option. Lawyers are qualified to offer a range of legal risks prevention services in China which other parties can not.

*Wenli Xie is the UK representative of Shanghai T&S Law which has recently opened a new office in Edinburgh. Contact Wenli Xie at xiewenli@xinhean.com

For further information, please contact Richard Sice: richard.sice@goingglobalskills.com, 07736 506077.


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Alastair Gilmour



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