New Zealand Chinese Language Week

Over the last week we have celebrated New Zealand Chinese Language Week.  Each day we posted some key considerations.  We have gathered these below.

Having a Good Chinese Name

大家好,祝大家新西兰中文周快乐!Happy New Zealand Chinese Language Week, everyone!

Having a good Chinese name for your home brand is a must and basic thing to consider if you are doing or going to do business in China. To celebrate the Chinese language week, we would like to share some tips of creating a good Chinese brand name this week.

What makes a good Chinese brand name?

A good Chinese brand name should fulfil most or all of the following criteria:

  • Sound the same or similar as the English brand name;
  • Have a positive meaning which reflects or is linked to your brand philosophy;
  • Short, catchy and succinct;
  • Be a good fit into Chinese culture;
  • Inherently registrable as a trade mark in China.

If you are having difficulties in creating your Chinese brand name, we are happy to discuss and help you.

Be aware of the tones that may change the meaning of your Chinese brand name

Mandarin is a tonal language with four main tones, namely:

  • First tone: high and level;
  • Second tone: rise moderately;
  • Third tone: fall and rise again;
  • Fourth tone: fall quickly and strongly to the bottom.

The same word with different tones could have completely different meanings, like the one below:


Chinese character










Different tones could completely change the meaning of your Chinese brand name. We suggest testing the potential names with different tones to see if it will lead to negative meanings or funny nicknames.

Should I use simplified or traditional Chinese characters for the Chinese brand name?

Currently, there are two versions of Chinese characters, namely simplified Chinese characters and traditional Chinese characters. They sound the same in Mandarin, but they look different for some characters, like the ones below:

Simplified Chinese character

Traditional Chinese character




New Zealand









Trade Mark

Simplified Chinese characters are widely used in Mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore, while traditional Chinese characters are used in Guangdong province of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

It is important to note that in Mainland China, people also use traditional Chinese in ceremonies, calligraphy, advertisement or decorations of shops.

For brand owners, we suggest creating two versions of your Chinese character trade marks, namely one with simplified Chinese and one with traditional Chinese, in order to meet requirements of different occasions or regions. 

Test your Chinese brand name with different dialects

According to the book Chinese Language, currently there are 129 dialects in China. But actually it’s more than that, like the old saying “different dialects around 10 miles”.

Here are the top 7 dialects commonly spoken in China:

  • Mandarin;
  • Cantonese;
  • Wu;
  • Hokkien;
  • Xiang;
  • Gan;
  • Hakka

Same Chinese characters may sound completely different in different dialects which may lead to different meanings and cause misunderstanding.  For example, the Chinese character “潮” which means “fashion; damp” in Mandarin, but it means “silly” in Shandong province.

Therefore, we highly recommend testing your Chinese brand name with different dialects, at least the above-mentioned 7 main dialects, in case it has any negative meaning in some dialects.


Naming Taboo in China

One of the common naming taboos is to avoid using characters with an ominous meaning, in your Chinese brand name.  You definitely wouldn’t want anything related to sickness, death, declining, misfortune, or even having something with a similar pronunciation.

For example, the number 4 and the character “四” (meaning 4) sound similar to the character “死” which means “death”, so Chinese people don’t like names in relation to 4, or 四or characters that sound similar. Also many people consider the character “梅”, which is a kind of flower that blooms in winter, implies misfortune because it shares the same pronunciation with characters “没”(which means no, absence) and “霉”(which means mould).

Therefore, it is important to test your Chinese brand names among some Chinese consumers confidentially, to see if it implies any negative meaning in their local culture.


Registrability of Chinese Character Trade Marks

To estimate whether your Chinese brand name is available for registration as a trade mark in China, we need to find out (1) if the trade mark is inherently distinctive and registrable; and (2) if there are any identical or similar trade marks  prior applied or registered on the same or similar goods/services.

Usually Chinese trade marks, which are not inherently registrable, are descriptive, lack of distinctiveness or easy to cause confusion. For instance, trade marks containing the characters “健康”(health), “天然” (natural), “有机” (organic)will have high possibilities of rejection on food or healthcare products in China. 

To assess the chance of success of registration, we also need to undertake a full search on the database of China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). According to the data released by CNIPA, there are around 33.5 million valid registered trade marks in China until June 2021 (From 1996 until now, around 2.4 million trade marks were filed in Europe). The chance of your trade mark being rejected due to prior applied or registered trade marks is relatively higher in China than in other countries and regions.

Therefore, it is very important to undertake a full search for your Chinese brand name before using and filing a trade mark application in China and we need to act fast.  

Finally, we would like to thank all of you for your lovely comments and feedback.

If we can assist further, please contact us.

Written by Solanda Chen, September 2021