Exhibiting at a trade fair is practically the same anywhere in the world: you get a booth, bring your marketing materials along, set several appointments and do your best to promote your products and services to potential buyers. However, In China you need to do a few more things before exhibiting at a trade fair, namely registering your trademarks, hiring a translator and localising your marketing materials.
Register your trademarks locally: you might have heard the story of how Michael Jordan does not hold the rights to his own name in China. Trademark ownership in China works on a first-come-first-serve basis, meaning whoever is the first to register a trademark becomes the owner of it.
There have been many cases of companies losing the rights to their brands in China because they failed to register their trademarks locally in China. You might think you are already adequately protected because you have a worldwide trademark registration, when in fact you are not protected in China. Take a look at China-based lawyer Dan Harris and what he writes about the importance of registering trademarks in China.
I have personally witnessed the following two cases that could have been prevented if the companies in question had invested in protecting their trademarks in China:
- A French textile company that was already producing in China decided to start selling their brands in China. They were initially hesitant to register their trademarks, but eventually decided it was probably a good idea. When filing for their brand registration, they found out their former suppliers had already registered two of their trademarks.
- An Italian company had been manufacturing their brand in China for years. All of a sudden one of their shipments was stopped at customs; it turned out a former partner had registered their brand’s trademark in China and forbade them from shipping abroad.
The lesson is simple: register your trademarks locally in China before exhibiting at a trade fair or doing business in China.
Adapt your marketing material to the Chinese audience: Every time I visit a trade fair in China, I am surprised by the amount of companies that don’t have their marketing materials translated into Chinese. Translating your marketing materials into Chinese is an absolute necessity to find distributors in China and to promote your products to potential buyers – and it doesn’t have to be expensive either.
Hire a local translator: Statistics don’t lie: less than 7% of the Chinese population speaks English. Unless you speak perfect Mandarin Chinese, it’s usually a good idea to have a translator with you to provide more information to potential buyers and help you with your negotiations.
Getting these three points right is a good first step to make sure you are well prepared to get the most out of your Chinese trade fair experience.
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