China has achieved remarkable progress in brand building and brand value improvement - with 13 Chinese companies making the list of the 100 most valuable brands worldwide last year, compared to just one in 2012, according to the latest statistics.
The statistics were released at the recent 2018 China Trademark Festival held in Tangshan, Hebei province, one of the biggest and most influential international events for trademarks and brands in the country.
"Brands reflect the comprehensive competitiveness of companies and countries," China Intellectual Property News quoted a senior official from the trademark office under the China National Intellectual Property Administration as saying.
"China has made continuous efforts in implementing a national trademark strategy, enhancing intellectual property protection and optimizing its business environment, all of which have given a strong impetus to the growth of the country's brand economy," the official added.
The trademark office has been picking up its pace, constructing a modern trademark registration system in recent years.
It has also imposed a stricter market regulatory system and innovated a new brand development initiative, in a bid to improve the image and quality of made-in-China products and promote a transformation toward created-in-China, with internationally competitive brands.
At a forum on brands and trademarks evaluation, a sub-event of the festival, an evaluation system and standards of China's geographical indication trademarks and brands were released. The term GI indicates that a name of a specific product corresponds to a particular geographical location or origin and has a sound reputation for quality.
For example, the estimated brand value of the Yan'an apple - a distinctive Chinese fruit grown in northern Shaanxi province and enjoying considerable export success - is currently around 7 billion yuan (around $1 billion). So is the brand value of the Luochuan apple, according to Qu Zhifang, director of the Yan'an administration for industry and commerce.
"Yan'an now has 21 trademarks with geographical indications, ranking first in Shaanxi province, where the city is located," Qu said.
He added that it also boasted a raft of high-quality agricultural and industrial brands and trademarks, covering millet, walnuts, the Chinese red date, oil and pharmaceuticals.
Chen Guan, a leading researcher at the China Brand Research Institute, said GI trademarks - a "golden key" to developing agricultural brands - are of great significance for the rural and regional economy and are becoming a strong engine to alleviate poverty.
Brands have played an increasingly important role in leading economic development in recent years, and brand innovation can help companies gain advantages in the sector and enlarge their market share, trademark officials said.
Over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, an important sign showing the increasing maturity of the Chinese market economy was that China has developed a large number of international competitive and influential brands, they added.
Along with these achievements, however, problems are also becoming more prominent, such as a lack of a standardized system and scientific procedures to evaluate brand value.
Li Anyu, chairman of the China Electronic Commerce Association's expert committee, identified one specific area of concern.
He said one of the main reasons for trademark stockpiling and trademark squatting - registering other people's marks as their own by "squatters" in other countries and regions to profit at the expense of original trademark owners - is that the application and market value of trademarks have not been effectively integrated into the evaluation system.
The trademark office said it will work on the establishment of a system and related standards. It will also encourage independent third-party institutions and social organizations to formulate a fair, open and just brand evaluation system.
Companies are also making contributions to the research of corporate brand evaluation in China.
A related research project was launched earlier this year, in which Dataway, a market research and consulting firm in Beijing, took part. "We are focusing on the measurement of brand value related to user perception," said Zhang Jun, president of Dataway.
"A brand is a cluster of information existing in customers' consciousness, associating it with a specific company and its products," Zhang said.
"The key to the survival and growth of a corporate brand lies in what customers recognize, rather than what the company defines."
Wang Chao, chairman of Beijing Xiyu Brand Consulting, said his company, together with the China Trademark Association, has conducted research on China's domestic brands in terms of evaluation, development, management and inspection. Improvements to brand value could be realized through five aspects, Wang added, which included international mergers and acquisitions, increasingly sophisticated consumer spending and social responsibility.