The Strategic Advantage of Filing a Black and White Trademark in China

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As businesses expand and their brand influence grows in the global market, protecting their unique brand identities is increasingly important. This protection often involves securing trademarks domestically and in other strategic territories around the globe. As a major economic powerhouse, China represents a significant market for many businesses, warranting careful consideration regarding trademark registration.

Among the myriad decisions associated with trademark registration in China, one critical choice is whether to register in color or in black and white. Contrary to what you might think, registering in black and white often comes with distinct strategic advantages.


First-to-File System in China

Before diving into the color aspect, it’s important to understand that China operates on a “first-to-file” system for trademarks, meaning whoever files for a particular trademark first has priority. Unlike some jurisdictions, China does not require evidence of use to grant trademark rights. Consequently, any delays in filing your trademark application can leave your brand exposed to ‘trademark squatters’ who might register your trademark and hold it hostage. This highlights the urgency and significance of registering your trademark in China.


Benefits of a Black and White Trademark

1. Universal Protection

Registering your trademark in black and white offers comprehensive protection, covering all color variations. This means that a competitor changing the color scheme of your design still counts as trademark infringement. This protective measure leaves no room for potential counterfeiters to maneuver around your rights.


2. Branding Flexibility

Business strategies change over time, and so does branding. If you decide to change your logo’s color scheme in the future, a black-and-white registration saves you from the trouble of filing a new application. It provides an effective buffer for any future rebranding without the need for legal adjustments.


3. Alignment with International Standards

If your plans include an international trademark registration through the Madrid Protocol, a black-and-white trademark will serve you well. It is accepted globally and shields your trademark across all color variations, fostering uniformity in your international trademark strategy.


4. Streamlined Design Verification

A black-and-white trademark can simplify the trademark examination process. By eliminating the color element, you reduce potential issues or misunderstandings that might arise during the examination, minimizing the likelihood of objections from the trademark office.


5. Economical Approach

Registering multiple trademarks to cover different color variations can be an expensive endeavor. A single black-and-white registration, however, extends protection to all color variations of your logo, proving a cost-effective method of protecting your brand.



In summary, the strategic choice to register your trademark in black and white in China offers far-reaching protection, flexibility for branding changes, streamlined verification, and economic efficiency. With China’s first-to-file system, there’s an additional element of urgency to protect your brand swiftly and effectively. However, given the intricacies of trademark laws, it’s always wise to consult with a legal expert well-versed in Chinese trademark laws. Safeguarding your brand is, after all, a pivotal step toward your business’s sustained success.



1. What is a “first-to-file” system? 

A “first-to-file” system means that trademark rights are generally awarded to the first person who applies for that trademark. It underscores the importance of applying for trademark protection as soon as possible.

2. Can I file a color trademark in China? 

Yes, you can file a color trademark in China. However, registering a trademark in black and white provides broader protection, covering all color variations of your logo or mark.

3. If I’ve registered my trademark in black and white, can I use it in color? 

Yes, registering your trademark in black and white protects it regardless of the color in which it is used. This means you can use it in any color without needing to file a new application.

4. Do I need to use my trademark to keep my registration valid in China? 

In China, if a registered trademark has not been used for three consecutive years, it may be canceled. So, the use of your trademark is important to maintain its registration.

5. Is it more expensive to file a trademark application in color rather than black and white? 

The filing fees for a trademark application do not change based on color. However, registering your trademark in black and white can be more cost-effective in the long run as it protects all color variations, eliminating the need for multiple registrations for different color variants.

6. Should I consult with a China legal expert before filing my trademark application? 

Absolutely. Given the intricacies and variations of trademark laws across different countries, it’s always wise to consult with a China legal expert familiar with the specific laws in China where you’re filing your trademark application. You will then get a higher quality application than a regular agent that sends applications to another agent in China without securing a good translation and explaining the service and product classes (subclasses) are different in China than in other countries. Because the system is different in China, making a trademark application directly in China is better because it gives you better protection.


Contact us if you need help with the protection of trademarks and patents in China and worldwide, background investigation of Chinese companies, protecting patents, 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 Manager, Jan Erik Christensen, at We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.