A perfect time for the INTA conference to come to China

Now that a week or two has passed since delegates at the International Trademark Association’s annual conference packed their bags and returned to their desks in all corners of the world, we’ve taken time to reflect on what we believe to be some of the key issues.

First, what a great time to come to Asia! The Far East may not have the longest history when it comes to global brands, but it is certain to have a hugely influential future. China has wealth, an increasingly educated workforce, a new generation of talented entrepreneurs, and consumers who are digitally savvy and interested in engaging with brands, both global and domestic.

Hong Kong streetsINTA was alive with IP lawyers enthused by the increasing demand they now see for their services. They were eager to develop their understanding and expertise in digital brand protection, monitoring and, if necessary, enforcement.

As more corporations enter China and domestic companies expand, trademark protection will become more complex; if only because China’s economic rise coincides with rapid and fundamental developments in the global digital environment. Fan-centric social media is a phenomenon in China, which while it can often be positive for the brand also brings an associated risk to corporate reputation.

In a growing economy, new gTLDs bring similar risks and opportunities. But for organizations that have much to consider as they enter the Far East market or grow their businesses, digital brand protection can sometimes be quite far down the to-do list. That provides a great opportunity for trademark professionals.

CSC Digital Brand Services’ new Hong Kong office head Alban Kwan believes that in many ways, it is easier for international corporations entering China to manage their brands on new digital channels, including social media and mobile apps, than it is for domestic Chinese businesses. Global firms, especially those from western markets, are often already set up for digital brand protection and expansion. Adapting their practices for new markets is an extension of business as usual.

Chinese companies, on the other hand, start from a completely different place. In general, they are some way behind Western companies in the processes and protocols they have in place for protecting their brands online. It is no reflection of their desire or aspirations. In fact, as discussion at INTA proved, they are single-minded in their determination to take advantage of digital opportunities while protecting their IP.

And that’s why holding the INTA conference in Hong Kong was so timely. Online developments change so rapidly – and brand protection in the digital space is already complex. The legal community was engaged with the debate around online brand protection. The challenge now is to engage with senior leaders of China’s businesses so that they too can address the issues around online brand protection and enforcement, and both protect and build their brands.