Your brand sounds like Chinese to me

From the Spanish Economic and Commercial Offices in China, Spanish companies are warned about the importance of “protecting rather than promoting”.

Surprising as it may seem, some businessmen have discovered that their distributor in China has registered their brand as their own, thus acquiring exclusive rights to commercialize the product in China.

According to the Economic and Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy in Beijing, while the Industrial Property Rights (IPR) have been acknowledged and protected in China since 1979, their entry to the WTO (World Trade Organization) in 2001 set the start of a long adaptation process of Chinese law to the international standards of intellectual property protection.

In the last few months, we have seen cases like that of a Taiwanese manufacturer of flat screens, Proview, who claims the property of the iPad brand in the Chinese market. They got there first, and now Apple have to fight so as not to have their brand taken over.

And this is only an example of how complex it may be to protect brands in emerging markets.

Brandnames are very valuable assets that we shouldn’t leave to their fate. They need to be protected, adapt them to the characteristics of the different languages, to the Chinese linguistic complexity and richness (we need to keep in mind that this language has 3000 signs and 6 dialects). Your brandname may end up paying a high prize for an error in these issues. If a company does not decide on an adequate Chinese name for their brand, other will no doubt do it for them. And not necessarily in the most legal of ways.

It needs to be pointed out that brands that have not been registered at the Chinese Trademark Office do not enjoy legal protection in this country, not even the internationally prestigious ones. In China the “first-to-file” principle applies, that is, protection to a brand is granted at the very moment when the process of brand registration starts, with a priority over later applications; so has the story gone for Starbucks or Porsche, who are still in long, expensive and difficult to solve legal processes to defend their brands in China.

One of the sectors with greatest projection in this Asian country is the automobile sector. The average annual growth of the Chinese total number of vehicles is 12.6%. According to data published by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the estimate is that they will go from 48 million vehicles registered in 2010 to 371 millions in 2030. The Spanish-German company SEAT has been able to understand this challenge and has trusted Nombra’s long experience to carry out their brand’s adaptation in the process of exporting their models to China. The result has been XIYATE, which refers to “elegant, special, comes from abroad”.

An important phonetic, linguistic and semantic adjustment has been necessary, in order to get adapted to Chinese culture and its different dialects. The new name will make its entry to China more easily and will contribute to positioning it as an imported, young and modern brand, addressed to a consumer who wishes to feel different. XIYATE keeps a phonetic form very close to SEAT, since the final “e” is hardly pronounced in this case and the X sounds soft, almost like an S; this makes the recognition and identification with the Spanish brand easier. The first character Xi symbolizes the western world, and thus transmits its condition of foreign and imported, therefore communicating a strong feeling of quality, reliability and value. Besides, this is the first character of the Chinese name in Spain. On the other hand, the other two signs Ya and Tè evoke the feeling of elegance and the special personality.


In the creation of the new SEAT name for China, NOMBRA has recruited native Chinese creatives specialized in naming who analyzed the phonetic constructions and the relevant proximate meanings referred to the main 6 dialects. And, of course, the cultural and legal filters were passed. With total guarantee; as it should always be.

Francesc Arquimbau.
Manager of Nombra (Coleman CBX)

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