By King & Wood’s Trademark Group
There has been a long debate on whether an unregistered trademark can be the subject of a franchise contract in China. Proponents argue that an unregistered trademark is the franchiser’s property and is thus eligible for being franchised so long as it is of economic value in the eyes of the franchisee. Opponents of this argument see an unregistered trademark as not legally owned by a franchiser without going through the trademark registration process and therefore not eligible for being licensed in a franchise contract. The Regulation on Administration of Commercial Franchises ("Regulation on Franchises") (商业特许经营管理条例) enacted by the State Council of the PRC on February 6, 2007, while clearly including registered trademarks, enterprise marks, patents and know-how into the checklist of business resources that a franchiser "possesses" for franchising, fails to touch on the issue of unregistered trademarks. However, it leaves room by putting the catch-all of "any other business resource" undefined.