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Stoel Rives China Practice: Helping Chinese Companies that Seek to Expand Their Presence in North America

“We pride ourselves on the extensive business contacts we have developed with the Chinese business and legal community. Over the years, we have worked with numerous Chinese clients seeking to invest or do business in the United States.

More recently, we have been pleased to assist U.S. companies and investors seeking to gain access to new business opportunities available in China’s rapidly expanding domestic markets.”
– Alan R. Merkle, Stoel Rives Chairman and Partner

Alan R. Merkle

Alan R. Merkle

For more than 100 years, Stoel Rives LLP has offered legal services to companies planning to invest or do business in the United States. With offices all along the U.S. west coast, and throughout the western U.S., Stoel Rives offers a wealth of experience in United States-China relationships.

Q: Alan, what services does the Stoel Rives China Practice offer?

A: We provide full-service solutions for Chinese companies seeking to expand their presence in North America. We also work with U.S. clients on various China cross-border issues, including the structuring of overseas ventures, project and trade financing, international tax, export licensing and compliance with overseas regulation, mergers and acquisitions, technology licensing, intellectual property protection and enforcement, and outsourcing.

Mike Mangelson, a Partner at Stoel Rives LLP and Chair of the firm’s China Group, speaks regularly on IP strategies.

Mike Mangelson Stoel Rives

Mike Mangelson

He generously offered to share his presentation (in both Chinese and English), titled, “Successful Trademark Strategies and Lessons Learned for Chinese Companies Protecting Their Brands Overseas: Insights from Recent U.S. Cases.”

Q: What specific services does Stoel Rives offer to Washington-based businesses wishing to or currently conducting business in China?

A: Exploring and negotiating new business relationships in China is a complex undertaking and contains a series of financial, regulatory, contractual and cultural challenges. The Stoel Rives China attorneys offer informed and sophisticated legal advice in many of these areas.

We serve as intermediary for U.S. clients in their dealings with Greater China law firms. We assist U.S. energy clients in developing China business strategies through U.S./China government energy initiatives. We advise on and structure intellectual property portfolio management strategies.

Our China attorneys advise on, structure and negotiate the purchase and sale of businesses, buy-outs, reorganizations, financings, and business entity formation issues. We also advise on and negotiate international licensing and distribution agreements for U.S. and Chinese clients in both an inbound and an outbound context.

Further, we advise on and implement compliance with various U.S. export laws, including technology transfers and licensing, along with the protocols necessary to ensure compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Q: What industries does your China Practice Attorneys have experience in?

A: Our China Practice Attorneys can counsel China or U.S.-based companies operating in any industry. Many of our current clients operate in the Cleantech, Consumer Electronics, Computer Accessories, Energy & Renewable Energy, Food & Beverage, Footwear, Pharmaceuticals, Nutritional Supplements, Natural Resources and Outdoor Product industries.

Q: What advantage does the Stoel Rives China Practice offer to Washington-based companies doing business in China?

A: The Stoel Rives China practice attorneys offer Washington-based companies doing business in China a couple of key advantages. First, several of our attorneys are bilingual and have worked and lived in China, so they are very familiar and knowledgeable on how to efficiently and successfully navigate the business culture in China.

Also, our clients benefit from a multidisciplinary team of attorneys. Our China attorneys counsel clients on a wide range of domestic and international legal subjects ranging from corporate law and intellectual property matters, importing and exporting regulations, tax requirements associated with operating a foreign subsidiary, to serving as an intermediary for U.S. clients in their dealing with Greater China law firms.

Q: What tips would you provide to businesses planning to expand to China?

A: Below are five tips that company executives should keep in mind when planning an expansion to China, or developing partnerships in China:

  1. Recognize the importance of relationships or “guanxi.” Remember that developing the right personal connections and aligning yourself with well-respected and well-known figures can help you in many areas of doing business in China, including avoiding and resolving legal issues.
  2. Carefully select and closely monitor your Chinese manufacturers and business partners.
  3. Control the production processes and use both contracts and good business practices to keep your trade secrets “secret.”
  4. Get your contracts in writing but remember that in China a signed contract is not considered to be the end of the conversation.
  5. Instill a sense of Intellectual Property (IP) ownership and make IP protection the responsibility of the entire China team. This includes developing a clear understanding of what IP rights you own as well as what and how you should protect them in China. China is a first to file jurisdiction, so remember to be proactive in registering early and defensively. And don’t forget to monitor your IP rights to discover infringements – to prevent is better than to cure.

Q: Can you give us examples of how you helped a U.S.-based company with its operations or business matters in China?

A: We have done a wide variety of projects for U.S.-based companies doing business in China. We represented a U.S. university in negotiating a marketing agency agreement with a Chinese firm involving the establishment of a permanent office in Beijing for purposes of recruiting Chinese students.

For a portable computer accessories manufacturer, we provided counsel on transactions and intellectual property relating to the manufacture and distribution of portable notebook cases and laptop computer accessories in China.

We’ve also represented multiple dietary and sports supplement manufacturers and distributors in transactions and intellectual property relating to sourcing raw ingredients, manufacturing and distributing dietary supplements in China.

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