That action is meeting with disapproval from other South China Sea claimants. Taiwan and Vietnam have rejected the legitimacy of the trademarks, which experts described as a possible attempt by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to control how domestic and even foreign companies use South China Sea branding.
Unlike most of China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea, the trademark registrations largely slipped under the radar when they were initiated seven years ago. But now a review of Chinese government records from 2014 by BenarNews has revealed that Sansha City — which is responsible for administering China’s claims in the South China Sea — filed thousands of domestic trademark applications covering 281 specific rocks, reefs, shoals, and other contested features as well as entire regions of the South China Sea.
Each of these trademarks is composed of the feature’s name in stylized Chinese calligraphy and is categorized under one of 45 international trademark classes, which cover everything from musical instruments to legal services. Many also include an English transliteration of the feature’s name and an illustrated logo that offers a colorful view of the feature as seen from above. The depiction of features appears to predate China’s massive campaign of land reclamation in the Paracel and Spratly Islands which kicked off in 2014.