Whenever clients ask about filing a trademark in China via the Madrid System, our answer is simple: filing a national application directly with the Chinese Trademark Office (CTMO) is better.
China’s trademark system is complicated and overseen by oftentimes capricious examiners, especially as compared to the one-size-fits-all Madrid application that makes registering a trademark in China seem so easy. All you have to do with a China trademark filing via the Madrid System is check the box marked “China.” This lulls Madrid applicants into a sense of complacency, but all too often the result is a rejection that could have been avoided with a national application in China.
Madrid applications are supposed to be cheap and quick, but fixing Madrid problems after the fact is neither. This “Madrid problem” is exacerbated by U.S. lawyers comfortable filing in Madrid but with no experience filing in China.
Trademark prosecution in China is highly mechanical. For the vast majority of applications, you file an application and then wait 18 months for your trademark to be registered or rejected. (A slight oversimplification, but not by much.) China has no CTMO equivalent to a USPTO office action, no back-and-forth with trademark examiners, and no chance to amend an already filed application.
For this reason, the meaningful work for Chinese trademark applications occurs before you file the application…