Securing Intellectual Property in China’s Manufacturing Sector with NNN Agreements and Patent Protection

In global manufacturing, China is often considered an industrial titan, responsible for churning out a diverse range of products for international markets. However, this manufacturing might be coupled with a heightened risk of intellectual property (IP) infringement for foreign businesses. Companies should rely more on NNN agreements coupled with robust patent protection strategies to fortify their proprietary rights.

The Role of NNN Agreements in IP Defense

NNN stands for Non-Use, Non-Disclosure, and Non-Circumvention, which are the three foundational pillars of these specialized legal contracts. They are tailored to defend a company’s IP when entering into manufacturing agreements in China. By stipulating stringent confidentiality and usage terms, NNN agreements lock down the critical details of product designs and the specific tools utilized in their production, preventing any unauthorized use or information leakage.

The Threefold Shield of NNN Agreements

  1. Non-Use: This clause binds the Chinese manufacturer to employ the molds and toolings exclusively for the production of items as specified by the foreign company, thereby restricting any unauthorized internal or external use.
  2. Non-Disclosure: Vital for maintaining the secrecy of technical and design information, this provision prohibits the disclosure of sensitive data pertaining to the tools and designs to any third party.
  3. Non-Circumvention: To secure the foreign company’s market interests, this section prevents the manufacturer from selling products created with the company’s molds directly in the market, averting potential competition.

The Necessity for Patent Protection in China

While NNN agreements are a potent legal instrument, they should be part of a broader IP protection strategy that includes patent registration. Holding a patent in China is crucial because it grants the holder exclusive rights to their invention in the country.

It’s a legal acknowledgment of ownership that can be crucial if disputes arise. Foreign companies must therefore seek to register their patents in China before manufacturing begins, as this ensures an additional layer of protection, complementing the NNN agreement.

Legal Enforceability and the Chinese Context

China’s legal system has shown an increasing capacity to enforce NNN agreements and uphold patent rights, provided they align with local laws. A well-drafted NNN agreement adapted to Chinese laws with a verified Chinese language version and jurisdiction in China, complemented by registered patents, forms a robust defensive strategy for foreign companies against IP breaches.


The synergy of NNN agreements and patent protection forms the cornerstone of IP security for foreign enterprises in the Chinese manufacturing industry. As China continues to be an essential player in global manufacturing, the imperative for foreign companies to secure their IP with a dual approach has never been more critical. NNN agreements serve to establish clear legal boundaries with manufacturing partners, while patents provide recognized and enforceable ownership rights. Together, they represent a comprehensive defense strategy for navigating the complex and often challenging landscape of IP protection in China’s manufacturing domain.


Q: What is an NNN agreement? A: An NNN agreement is a legal contract that stands for Non-Use, Non-Disclosure, and Non-Circumvention. It is designed to protect a foreign company’s intellectual property when engaging with Chinese manufacturers by ensuring that molds and toolings are used appropriately and information about them remains confidential.

Q: Why are NNN agreements important in China? A: NNN agreements are important in China due to the higher risks of intellectual property theft and misuse in the manufacturing sector. These agreements serve as a preventative measure, ensuring that the Chinese manufacturing partners do not use, disclose, or circumvent the proprietary assets and information provided for manufacturing purposes.

Q: What does the Non-Use clause in an NNN agreement do? A: The Non-Use clause prevents the Chinese manufacturer from using the provided molds and toolings for any other purpose than what was explicitly agreed upon, barring their use for internal benefits or for third parties.

Q: How does the Non-Disclosure clause protect a company? A: The Non-Disclosure clause ensures that any confidential information regarding the designs, operations, and specifications of the molds and toolings cannot be shared with any third parties, thus protecting trade secrets and preventing intellectual property theft.

Q: What is the purpose of the Non-Circumvention clause? A: The Non-Circumvention clause is intended to prevent the Chinese manufacturer from bypassing the foreign company and selling products made with the company’s proprietary molds directly in the market, which could create unwanted competition.

Q: Why is patent protection necessary in China? A: Patent protection is necessary in China to provide a legal foundation for the exclusive rights to an invention. Registering a patent solidifies ownership and can be a decisive factor in legal disputes over intellectual property.

Q: Can NNN agreements and patents be enforced in China? A: Yes, both NNN agreements and patents can be enforced in China if they are properly drafted according to Chinese law. The Chinese legal system has been evolving to better recognize and enforce these intellectual property protections.

Q: Should a foreign company register their patent in China before manufacturing begins? A: Yes, it is highly recommended that a foreign company registers their patent in China before the onset of the manufacturing process. This pre-emptive step ensures that the company’s IP rights are recognized by local law, offering an additional safeguard alongside an NNN agreement.

Q: What additional steps can a company take to protect its IP in China? A: In addition to NNN agreements and patent registration, companies should conduct thorough due diligence on potential partners, monitor the manufacturing process closely, and consider additional agreements for extra layers of IP protection. Regular audits and legal consultations can also help in maintaining IP security.


Contact us if you need help with background investigation of Chinese companies, protecting patents, trademarks, verification of contracts to the law in China, or help with other legal challenges that you have in China.

If you require our assistance or have further questions about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Relationship Managers Jan Erik Christensen, at  or Mila Chen, at We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.


Contact us if you need help with drafting of contracts that follows Chinese laws and are enforceable in China, background investigation of Chinese companiesprotecting patents, trademarks, verification of contracts to the law in China, or help with other legal challenges that you have in China.

If you require our assistance or have further questions about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Relationship Managers Jan Erik Christensen, at  or Milla Chen, at We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.