Alibaba Group has two major online shopping platforms – Taobao and Tmall.

Taobao is focusing on consumer-to-consumer online shopping and Tmall is a business-to-consumer online shopping platform offering global brands to an increasingly affluent Chinese consumer base and it is a trusted platform for Chinese consumers to buy international products.

Being China’s biggest online sales platform that serves millions of internet users, Tmall is an efficient way to reach the market in China. Tmall’s Double 11 shopping festival is the world’s biggest online sale. Last year, it took Tmall less than 7 minutes to reach RMB 10 billion (USD 1.44997 billion) in sales and for the whole day they reached 120.7 billion yuan (US$17.79 bn)

But all these tempting benefits come with some important prerequisites, such as they only accept domestic Chinese companies. You can solve this problem by setting up a Chinese branch office, a wholly owned subsidiary or working with a local distributor.

There is another unexpected request that might damage or delay your Tmall sales plan; Tmall requires you to have a China trademark certificate or a notice of registration application acceptance to open an online store. Even once you get the rest of the application all prepared, you will have to wait for months or years to obtain the requested notice or trademark certificate. If you are not prepared it will cause you a serious delay.

Even if you don’t have any plans to sell in China, these days people can find almost anything through the internet so someday you may find that someone has already registered your trademark in China and then you have lost the entire Chinese market.

To be passive and do it “later” can be expensive. Make trademark strategy part of your plan or it might come up and bite you.

How to solve this problem:

Plan ahead and file the application early; it is the best way to ensure an entry into the Chinese market at a minimum cost. This can save much trouble and time if someday they decide to extend their market to China.

There are a few things that you need to be aware of while filing the application for China trademarks:

1. A trademark only containing graphics will not be accepted: the Tmall thinks that a graphics only trademark can’t be publicized because people don’t know how to call it and the naming of your Tmall store has to be based on your trademark. Therefore, a trademark only containing graphics won’t fit the acceptance standards.

Your trademark has to be a word mark or contain words, and if it is a combination of words, graphics, and other elements, depending on the trademark search results, we may suggest our clients to apply for each element separately, because if one part of the trademark has been considered similar to a preexisting trademark then all the trademark will be rejected even if another part of the trademark is registrable.

2. Although Tmall initially accepts the notice of registration application acceptance from the China trademark office, every year when signing the renewal of the online store, you have to submit the trademark certificate. Therefore to secure your plan, it is very important to conduct a trademark search and set up a proper strategy before filing the application.

3. The trademark class that you designate should be consistent with the products of your online store. In the process, when you apply for the Tmall store, you have to be specific about the product. For example, if you plan to sell women‘s clothes, your trademark has to at least designate at clothes.

We study all the products of our clients and discuss with them about their future plans to make sure we have all the product covered so they don’t have to make a second application when they plan to extend their brand later.

With China about to become the largest economy on the planet and their population being avid online shoppers you don’t want to miss out just because of a lacking or badly planned trademark strategy. Protect your brand!