Intellectual Property protection in the food and beverages industry in China
In 2011, China surpassed the US as the world’s largest consumer market for the food and beverage (F&B) industry.
Chinese demand for imported food and beverage products has since continued to rise, with around 60% of Chinese consumers preferring foreign brands.
This increased demand serves as an opportunity for potential European F&B producers looking to break into the Chinese market. It is important, however, for importers and producers to make sure their brand and their products are protected.
The food and beverage industry is a highly regulated sector in Chinese law, with many hoops for foreign companies to jump through before they can introduce their products to the Chinese marketplace.
Whilst compliance with these legal requirements is mandatory for entry to the market, it is just as important to ensure comprehensive IP protection in order to protect brand and product reputation amongst Chinese consumers.
Concerns about product quality and safety in China, as well as the high number of counterfeit or fake goods in the market, bring Chinese consumers to heavily rely on trusted brands to determine their purchases.
A trustworthy brand and good business reputation are critical to success in the F&B market.
Rights relating to packaging
The way companies package their goods plays a crucial role in customers’ purchasing decisions in the F&B sector. As a result, an increasing number of copies are emerging in the Chinese market.
Packaging can be protected in China under various types of IP: the Trademark Law, the Patent Law, the Copyright Law, and the Anti-unfair Competition Law. While technical features of packaging could be protected as utility models or invention patents, packaging is most commonly protected via design patents.
A trade secret is non-public information with actual or potential commercial value that is guarded by confidentiality measures. F&B companies may have trade secrets that are critical to the taste, composition, appearance, or other aspects of their goods.
Reputation is key
The food and beverage sector is moving fast in China as consumers look for new trustworthy brands. This presents huge opportunities for foreign businesses, particularly in the wake of recent Chinese food safety scandals. However, it should not be underestimated how important brands and packaging are to the success of companies operating in the F&B industry. For food and beverages, reputation is almost everything, and reputation is kept safe through registered Intellectual Property.
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