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Image: Vogue China

China drove significant growth in terms of the nearly 12.5 million non-domestic trademark applications that were filed last year, according to the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization’s annual report for 2017. Joining the 5.7 million domestically-filed trademark applications in China in 2017, far more than any other country in the world, the number of Chinese-filed applications seeking to protect brand names and logos outside of China grew by “prodigious” 54.4 percent compared to 2016, with Asia now accounting for 66.6 percent of the world’s trademark applications.

China’s 50-plus percent growth is whopping compared to the U.S., which saw just a 12.6 percent rise in international applications, but pales in comparison to Iran, for instance, which saw the biggest annual jump in trademark applications, with an 87.9 percent increase in 2017.

 The practice of Chinese natives looking beyond its own borders for trademark protection comes as “China has adopted a ‘Go Global’ strategy, which aims to promote Chinese investments abroad,” China-based trademark lawyer George Chan of Simmons & Simmons, Beijing, told Bloomberg Law.

Speaking specifically of the U.S., Chan said that Chinese-filed trademark applications have “increased significantly.” As of 2017, one in every nine trademark application reviewed by the U.S. Trademark Office was identified as originating in China, according to government data.

The surge is not without ethical issues. It was revealed this spring that huge numbers of Chinese citizens were filing applications for registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and that the applications appeared to be “rife with false information.” According to the WSJ, “As part of a national effort to ramp up intellectual property ownership, China’s provincial governments are paying citizens [as much as $800] for each trademark registered in the U.S.”

“There’s been a dramatic increase on Chinese filings. A lot of [them] seem to be not legitimate,” the patent office’s trademarks commissioner, Mary Boney Denison, told the WSJ.

Beyond the cash subsidy-influenced filings, the rise in legitimate applications is, according to come experts, demonstrative of China’s push, under the reign of President Xi, to exist not just as a domestic market, but as a major player in the world economy.

“The explosion in trademark applications being filed by Chinese companies and Chinese entrepreneurs shows that China is on the verge of becoming a major player in the branded consumer [market], as well as industrial and commercial products and services in the U.S.,” trademark lawyer Mark Peroff of Peroff Saunders PC, told Bloomberg this fall.

This comes as no shortage of the country’s manufacturers have become much more proficient at manufacturing in the realm of progressively more upscale fashion. While China was known for its ability to churn out low-cost, low-quality wares, nowadays, its “advantage lies less in low wages than in state-of-the-art equipment and expertise,” columnist Virginia Postrel aptly stated, writing for Bloomberg. China not only boasts the necessary machinery but the individuals needed to oversee such projects, thereby proving an advantage to the Chinese economy and its prospect of being a bona fide fashion capital.