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Manufacturing in China?


I have a small fashion start-up. We have recently found a factory in China willing to work us, fabric sourcing and production.

Could give me some Key terms that should be included in our contracts that would protect our brand ?


13 Replies

David Crooke
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David Crooke Entrepreneur
Serial entrepreneur and CTO
Intellectual property is widely ignored in China, it's a Western invention. Not sure if a less sophisticated country which has a more clothing based economy (Vietnam, Honduras) would be a better bet, or maybe India?
 Melissia HIlll
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Melissia HIlll Entrepreneur
Designer at Ooshie
Thanks David,

I manufactured in India and the clothes were not produced to my standards. And I found limited yardage of fabric
Allison Jenkins-Schickel
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Founder/Creator of the Brobe
Melissia, I have worked with a few factories in China. From my experience, they do not sign contracts, NDA's and patents are as David said, pretty much ignored especially if the patent is only for the US. Are you working through a Broker? If so, they should be able to give you some background of the factory, how long in business, etc. For the most part, there is not a lot you can do unless you have a patent for your product filed for China.

Another option is a PCT application, which is an international application that serves as a placeholder for many countries (but not all). The PCT application never issues, but delays the filing deadline in certain jurisdictions generally between 30 and 31 months from, in this case, the original filing date. So, a PCT application can buy additional time to decide whether you want to file in specific countries.

But again, nothing is 100% even with a patent.

Steve Karmeinsky
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Steve Karmeinsky Entrepreneur • Advisor
CoFounder City Meets Tech / Lean Capital Ltd / Placeholder Ltd
I really wouldn't worry about protecting your IP (for local Chinese markets), not much you can do about it unless you have a lot of cash.

I'd be more worried about getting the stuff back you expect. Corners will be cut, different materials used etc.

Ask them to set-up the production line for the whole run, but get them to say send 100 samples from that run, then if they've cut corners you'll know before you get a container with e.g. 10,000 things that are wrongly made.


 Melissia HIlll
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Melissia HIlll Entrepreneur
Designer at Ooshie
Thanks Steve, Allison and David!

Now I have a better understanding of what I need to do and how to handle production :)
An Yu
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An Yu Entrepreneur
President | Vice-President
1) Contract must be in Chinese language
2) You or representative from your company should be there to say YES/NO to a million questions that were not mentioned in the contract.
David Monk Sr
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David Monk Sr Entrepreneur
Cloud-First AI Deep Learning Video Security Executive
Hi Melissa... I have a lot of experience with having products made to my specifications in China and Taiwan. (actually all over the world but I'll focus on these two)

First... Yes you can forget about IP pretty much... but on the other hand remember that they sort of don't care. Everyone thinks their design/idea/method is the best and fear it being stolen, even myself. The plain truth about that is that you need more than your idea, you need a passion for it and your audience... and until it's a big brand you likely don't have much to worry about with others doing the manufacturing.

Next - After you spend time researching and negotiating with a few potential partners to manufacture your goods, you need to get over there and meet the folks and see their facilities. Reason for this is that many 'agencies' in china will claim to be manufacturers, but they don't manufacture anything at all. They are a small office with an internet connection, and represent themselves as makers all kinds of things they buy as distributors.

An excellent source to begin that research is alibaba however that's not the end all for sure. That site is full of those 'agencies' you will recognize by seeing 20 'manufacturers' with pictures of the exact same product. You need to find out which one is the true manufacturer.

Finding the true source of the material and labor and infrastructure is key here. Using anyone else will have a big effect on quality, lead times, and mutual understanding.

Another big thing is that usually if you receive something that is not up to standard, you're stuck with it, whether you think it's their fault or yours. Being a startup you're not going to have the long term history to justify any free replacement orders if there is errors... another reason to visit with some samples of your own, and view things there.

Best of luck to you. For the record I had my product line 'Cobra Controls Corporation' security products made over there, so I don't have clothing experience... but these are general guidelines I would give anyone.

Gary Jurman
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Gary Jurman Entrepreneur
Screen Printing Industry (30 yrs)
I am finding that some of the quotes I am getting back from Chinese companies are just not low enough to accept the risks and lead times as compared to going with US companies. I am speaking specifically about manufacture of metal materials, but to be candid, China is well known for having cheaper metals. This supports some of David's comments.

@Alllison I am curious about the PCT application. I do have a US application in for some IP, but would like to explore an inexpensive/less expensive route for some international protection.
Jonathan Lu
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Jonathan Lu Advisor
Product Innovation Entrepreneur
David's answer above was spot on - there really is no replacement for pounding the pavement and getting out there to see/meet/do yourself (which you'll likely need a savvy partner to do). 2 things I would add:
1) considering your industry, brand equity is more important than technology (my assumption without knowing exactly what your fashion product is... I may be wrong about this). So focus more on protecting the trademark rather than IP. Michael Jordan recently learned a lesson about this

2) Contracts are important, but don't even try to talk about this with your selected vendor until after many handshakes / bowls of noodles / drinks have been shared. A common misperception of doing business in China is that companies do not respect contracts. More accurately put is that relationships are far more important than the contracts themselves - spend 95% of the time nurturing your relationship and 5% on the details on paper (rather than vice-versa which is how many who have had bad experiences have done it).
LanVy Nguyen
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LanVy Nguyen Advisor
Founder & Managing Director at Fashion4Freedom
As a startup brand, don't even bother with legal fees and certs to keep your supplier in check. How well you can manage your manufacturer depends on your "buying" power: Quantity x FOB Price. If you expect your China factory to do the sourcing, development, production while giving you a "made in China" price, then you should also expect a large dose of dissatisfaction.

As a startup brand with a handful of styles, it isn't financially prudent to travel to Asia for production inspection. Create a reasonable budget to test out suppliers you can trust for the long haul. Allow them to make reasonable mistakes so that you can build a relationship based on collaboration and trust.

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