Law & Practice

CHINA: Business Name Registration Amendment Takes Effect

Published: April 28, 2021

Wei He Wanhuida Intellectual Property Beijing, China Geographical Indications—Governance Subcommittee

Paul Ranjard Wanhuida Intellectual Property Beijing, China Global Advisory Council—China

Verifier

Xuefang Huang

Xuefang Huang Marks & Clerk Beijing, China INTA Bulletins—China Bulletin Subcommittee

The amended Regulation on Business Name Registration (Amendment) issued by the China State Council came into effect on March 1, 2021. The Amendment brings the following changes into effect:

1. New Name Approval System

Previously, business names required approval from the local Administration for Market Regulation (AMR) prior to registration. The Amendment allows an applicant to choose its own business name, but it must bear the legal liability if the chosen name is found to infringe the legitimate rights of others (Article 16). As part of this process, the AMR’s role has shifted to that of a public service provider, providing services such as maintaining the online business name search tool, risk reminder, and the self-declaration system.

2. Prohibited Business Names

The Amendment added the following new restrictions on business names:

  • A trade name may not be the same as others, unless the business name (the entire name of the company) suggests a different industry sector. With some possible exceptions, the trade name may not be registered again if it has been canceled, revoked, or changed within one year (Article 17).
  • A trade name cannot be the same as that of local administrative divisions, at or above the county level. A trade name also cannot include the characteristics of a certain sector or business, unless it has another meaning (Article 8).
  • Business names may not contain words that are obscene or pornographic, or that reference gambling, superstition, terror, or violence. They also must not include words that discriminate against ethnicity, race, religion, or sex, or violate public order, or have other adverse effects (Article 11).

3. Dispute Mechanism

If a dispute between two business names arises, the parties concerned may choose to file a civil suit with the court or request dispute resolution by the AMR, which may either arrange the mediation or directly issue an administrative decision within three months (Article 21).

If the dispute concerns a conflict between prior rights such as a trademark and the business name, the Amendment states only that the relevant laws apply (Article 22).

4. Oversight by AMR

The AMR is responsible for overseeing the selection of new business names. Registration will be denied if the AMR finds a violation of the registration rules. The AMR is also entitled to cancel a business name registration if a violation of the rules is discovered after registration. Third parties can report violations to the AMR and request the AMR to take action (Article 20).

When an order is made to cease using a certain business name either by the court or the AMR, the business name must be amended within 30 days. Until the name is changed, the AMR will only use the business registration number (and not the business name itself). If a business does not change its name within the prescribed time, the AMR will add the business to the list of “abnormal” companies. The list is accessible to the public (Article 23).

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest. Law & Practice updates are published without comment from INTA except where it has taken an official position.

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