Can place names be registered as trademarks?

According to Article 10 of the Trademark Law, place names in administrative divisions at or above the county level or foreign place names known to the public shall not be used as trademarks. However, if the place name has other meanings, such as “West Lake” and “Phoenix”, or as part of a collective trademark or certification trademark, such as Shaoxing Yellow Rice Wine and Pixian Douban, it can be registered as a trademark. As for the place names of administrative divisions below the county level, there is no clear provision in the law that they should not be used as trademarks. However, considering that place names belong to public resources and based on the basic consideration of balancing public interests and private rights, the trademark registration applications containing place names are strictly examined in the trademark review process. If the place name in the trademark is easy to cause the public to misunderstand the origin of the goods, then the place name cannot be registered and used as a trademark. Even if the trademark containing the place name is registered, others still have the right to use the place name in the trademark properly.

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