Securing Molds and Toolings in China: An Essential Strategy for Successful Manufacturing

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China stands as a pillar of the global manufacturing industry, underpinned by a comprehensive supply chain infrastructure, efficient production practices, and remarkable volume capacities. Central to this manufacturing process is the use of molds and toolings, which define the shape, size, and features of the final products. Their essential role means that businesses involved in manufacturing in China must not only prioritize the safety of their molds and tooling but also ensure their effective control in case of changes in manufacturing partnerships.


Understanding the Value of Molds and Toolings

The molds and toolings are the life essence of any manufacturing operation, responsible for the precise design, dimension, and detail of mass-produced items. They are typically custom-made for each specific product, signifying a substantial investment in terms of time and money, thus underscoring their intrinsic value.

Moreover, these elements often house proprietary designs or trade secrets that are integral to a company’s competitive advantage. Unauthorized use or replication of these tools could result in significant financial loss and compromised market positioning.


Challenges and Risks in China’s Manufacturing Landscape

China’s competence in the manufacturing sector is well-recognized. However, the country also presents unique risks, primarily concerning intellectual property protection. Even with increasingly stringent enforcement of intellectual property laws, unauthorized use or duplication of molds and toolings is not unheard of.

In the Chinese legal context, enforcing contracts can sometimes pose a challenge, particularly for foreign companies. This means that the protection of molds and toolings in China is not solely about preventing physical misuse or damage, but also about guaranteeing that the intellectual property rights embodied in these tools are respected and preserved.

Without effective legal protection of your molds and toolings in China, there’s a high risk that your Chinese manufacturer might retain your molds and tooling. They could potentially use them to produce and sell products that directly compete with yours.


The Crucial Role of NNN Agreements in China

In this complex manufacturing environment, Non-Use, Non-Disclosure, Non-Circumvention (NNN) Agreements adapted to China and Chinese legislation serve as a vital line of defense. These contracts are designed to protect foreign companies’ intellectual property, preventing Chinese manufacturers from misusing or profiting from proprietary information.

NNN agreements explicitly define the ownership of molds, stipulate restrictions on their usage, and establish penalties for any violation. Without such agreements in place, changing manufacturing partners can lead to old or even current manufacturers retaining your molds and tooling, potentially using them to create competing products.


Safeguarding Measures in China

  1. Comprehensive Product Manufacturing Agreements: Implementing robust Product Manufacturing Agreements (PMAs) is crucial. These contracts should specifically establish mold ownership, usage limitations, and penalties for violations, offering a vital legal recourse in case of disputes. It is crucial that all contracts you use in China follow Chinese legislation, have the jurisdiction set to China, and use Chinese in your contracts to avoid translation problems and ensure your contracts are enforceable in China. 
  2. Registering Intellectual Property: Registering your designs and patents in China gives legal weight to your ownership claims. China adheres to a ‘first-to-file’ system, where the first party to register a patent or trademark becomes the legal owner, regardless of who originally invented or used the concept or product.
  3. Robust NNN Agreements: Implementing comprehensive NNN agreements forms the foundation of molds and tooling protection, providing legal recourse in the event of disputes.
  4. Conducting Thorough Due Diligence: An in-depth background check of potential manufacturing partners, including their reputation and any history of intellectual property rights infringement, is crucial in China. It is important to verify Chinese companies before signing any contracts. A part of this verification is to ensure that you have the legal Chinese name of the company and the legal person and that the Chinese company uses the correct legal names in the contracts in addition to the correct business stamp with the correct business registration number in China.



Considering the substantial investment in the creation of molds and tooling and the potential loss of intellectual property, their protection is a critical aspect of manufacturing in China. More so, when considering possible changes in manufacturing partnerships. By utilizing robust Product Manufacturing Agreements, conducting diligent due diligence, registering intellectual property, and employing expert local legal counsel, businesses can safeguard their molds and tooling, thereby reinforcing their competitive stance in the dynamic world of manufacturing.


FAQs on Protecting Molds and Tooling in Manufacturing in China

1. Why are molds and tooling so important in manufacturing? Molds and tooling are integral components of the manufacturing process, dictating the design, size, and details of mass-produced items. They are typically custom-made for each specific product, involving substantial investment and often housing proprietary designs or trade secrets.

2. What risks are associated with manufacturing in China? Though China has a robust manufacturing industry, there are risks, particularly related to intellectual property protection. Even with the strengthening of IP laws, unauthorized use or replication of molds and tooling still occurs. Contract enforcement can also be challenging in the Chinese legal context, particularly for foreign companies.

3. What happens if I switch manufacturers in China? Without effective legal protection, there’s a risk that your previous manufacturer might retain your molds and tooling. They could potentially use them to produce and sell products that directly compete with yours.

4. How can I protect my molds and tooling in China? Key protective measures include implementing robust Product Manufacturing Agreements (PMAs), registering your designs and patents in China, conducting thorough due diligence on potential manufacturing partners, and securing local legal counsel to navigate the complexities of the Chinese legal environment.

5. What is a Product Manufacturing Agreement (PMA)? A PMA is a legally binding contract that outlines terms regarding mold ownership, usage limitations, and penalties for violations. These agreements are a crucial tool in asserting your legal rights over your molds and tooling.

6. Why should I register my intellectual property in China? Registering your intellectual property in China lends legal authority to your ownership claims. China operates under a ‘first-to-file’ system, meaning the first party to register a patent or trademark is the legal owner, regardless of who originally developed or used the concept/product.



Contact us if you need legal help in China, like drafting contracts that follow Chinese law, background investigation of Chinese companies, protecting patents, trademarks, and verification of contracts to the law in China, etc.

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