When you come up with an idea for a product you want to manufacture for profit, there are a number of additional tasks to consider before bringing the product to market. Before a single unit is ever manufactured, it’s often prudent to extensively research the intended market, develop multiple prototypes, perform exhaustive product testing, and investigate the intellectual property protections that are available.
Many people choose Chinese manufacturing because it is cheaper to have products manufactured overseas. Before you consider selling your products that are made in China, you should learn about patent laws. The last thing that you want after product sourcing is to have your idea stolen because you are having the product produced in China.
It is important to understand that patents are territorial. When China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, it agreed to be party to certain minimum standards of protection for intellectual property. However, a company must register its IP with the appropriate Chinese agencies before those IP rights can be enforced in China. This means that if you have a patent in effect in the United States, it will have no effect in China. To make sure your product is protected while being manufactured in China, you should file for a patent in both the United States and China.
In China, there are three forms of patent protection.
- Invention patents: This patent is granted for practical, technical innovations. To receive an invention patent, the idea must be inventive and new.
- Design patents: This patent is used to protect the color, shape, or combination of both of an object.
- Utility model patents: This patent is granted for technical solutions that are related to the structure or shape of an object.
In order to file for a patent in China, you must file with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) in China, or through the Patent Cooperation Treaty method. These patents are given on a first come, first serve basis. This means that if you and another party are trying to get a patent for the same product, the first person to file will be granted the patent. If you are trying to get an invention patent in China, it can take between three and four years. If you are hoping to be granted a utility or design patent, it should only take about 18 months.
As long as you are educated, and file for your patent in both your primary market(s) and in China, your idea should be relatively protected.