Five central government agencies - Ministry of Commerce (MOC), Ministry of Culture and Tourism, State Administration for Market Regulation, National Cultural Heritage Administration and China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) - recently enacted the Measures on Building and Administration of Model Chinese Time-Honored Brands, explicitly setting rules for the general requirements, basic conditions, application/certification and dynamic administration of the building of these brands and sending a strong message on advocating innovative development of time-honored brands and consumption of them.
At a press conference featuring development and consumption of time-honored brands, according to an MOC executive, there are 1,128 national time-honored brands and 3,277 local ones, 701 of which have been in business for over a century since establishment. The oldest of them - Bian Yi Fang of Beijing boasts 607 years of operations. These long-admired shops span a couple of dozens sectors like food processing, catering, hotels, daily services. Amassing over 2 trillion yuan each year makes them key participants in boosting consumption, upgrading existing sectors, taking the lead in cultural pride and national confidence. It is a common international practice to protect and support time-honored brands. In 2022, 1,300 companies celebrated their centennial birthday in Japan alone while half of Germany's Fortune 500 companies are in the same senior age group.
The MOC executive elaborates the three qualities of the Measures. First, it consolidates the authorities of several agencies. The Measures brings five agencies on board, which is easier for stressing both the historic value and cultural nature of the brands, and for facilitating both protection and development. Second, sustainable development is placed at a more prominent position. A time-honored brand has to be established prior to 1956 under the old rules, whereas the Measures sets 50 years of operations as the minimum entry. Third, a dynamic administration mechanism having both "listing and delisting" is formed. For those brands declining to fulfil their prescribed obligations and violating laws and regulations, incremental administrative measures in mandatory talks, rectification, suspension of privileges and even delisted from the official log would be invoked.
Shang Jiaquan, a lawyer with Beijing Globe-Law Lawyers says the change from a fixed cutoff time - 1956 to an ever-changing one - 50 years may inspire more companies to build up their own future time-honored brand, opening the gate for an infinite number of such brands. At the same time, those already certified to use the title - Chinese Time-Honored Brand - do not get a certification for good, meaning they cannot keep the title by simply living off their history and reputation. The Measures has a host of measures in place to monitor them and administer their privileges, aiming to purge those not deserving the title and make the title always living up to its name.
Developing time-honored brands shall focus on preserving strength and innovating, meaning solidifying the established "old" strength, cracking the "old" problems, defending the "roots" with the people at center, inheriting the "soul" of proven traditional culture, borrowing the "power" of advanced applicable technology to accelerate innovative development. "Quality and heritage are the essence allowing time-honored brands to survive for centuries and stay strong. Even when they attempt to innovate, they could not afford losing historical and cultural heritage or their 'soul' might be gone in the process. The Measures provides that time-honored brands shall develop with the trend, preserve their strength and innovate, present economic and cultural value," Shang says.
Trademark is an important legal vehicle for time-honored brands. Innovation and development of time-honored brands cannot advance without IP protection. In recent years, the CNIPA has been working closely with other relevant agencies in examination/grant, company registration and administrative enforcement to heighten trademark protection. It is waging a new round of amendment of the trademark law in an effort to shape a favorable order for registration and use of trademarks and a market environment for fair competition through new credibility rules, stricter trademark administration and proprietary protection, which would definitely benefit the development of time-honored brands.