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Manage your Intellectual Property in Mainland China, HongKong, Macao and Taiwan

Fighting online infringement

Vogmask is the leading anti-pollution mask available in China - using a revolutionary microfiber filtration fabric. Christopher Dobbing founded Vogmask China in 2013. Originally an education consultant, Christopher found that most students he worked with mentioned air pollution as major challenge for China in the next 10 years, and that many of them had breathing illnesses or carried an inhaler with them. When searching for a good quality mask that he could recommend to students, he got in touch with Vogmask USA. Vogmask UK and Vogmask China were born shortly after.

“Vogmask China was founded in 2013 and our business has grown rapidly since”, say Christopher. “The market for air pollution products is growing, and until we entered the market no good pollution masks for children were available in China”, he continues. “Our masks are available at hospitals, international schools and online. Because the designs of our masks is adaptable we can be creative in branding. Vogmask is a combination of fashion and function.”

Not long after its market entry, Vogmask found counterfeits and unlicensed products on the Chinese online retail platform Taobao. Christopher explains: “We monitor the market carefully and conduct a weekly online check. The volume of infringing products grows every week and includes both copies of our products and illegal imports of real products, meaning that the seller didn’t pay the required 17% import tax.”

Through the EU SME Centre Christopher came in touch with the Helpdesk, who provided information on how infringing goods can be taken down from Taobao. “This has been very useful and we have a clear idea on how to act now”, Christopher says. “We registered our trade mark in China immediately when we entered the market, but as registration processes in China can take some time, we are still awaiting our trade mark registration certificate. We need this certificate to prove to Taobao that we own the brand, and only then can we start with the take down procedure of infringing products”.

Other than the continuous battle with online infringers, Christopher has an adequate IP strategy in place. He states: “As the filters used in our masks are too advanced to be copied cheaply, the quality of infringing products is not nearly as good as the original. As people are aware of the health issues regarding air pollution, they won’t buy a cheap copy instead of the real product.” According to Christopher, the design of the masks changes frequently, so copycats can’t keep up with the changes: “The design of our masks changes every year, people want to keep up with new trends and would therefore not buy a copy of last year’s design.”

As a recommendation to other SMEs operating in China, Christopher advises: “Monitor the market, keep track of the business environment and deal with challenges as they arise. Start the process of registering your trade mark as soon as possible, because the registration process in China is very time consuming. Things take longer in China then they do in the UK, so you really need to assign time for all registrations in order to manage your business well.”

 

Lessons learnt:

  • Register your IP in China – better too early than too late.
  • All Chinese large online selling platforms have channels to take down infringing products. Use these to tackle online infringement.
  • Regularly monitor the market to keep up with infringers and act immediately.

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