Generally, by talking about IP Protection on China software platforms we mean obtaining the ICP license or ICP Filing. In this article we would like to explain why ICP is necessary and how it can help to protect your Intellectual Property in our market.
ICP stands for Internet Content Provider. In China, any “internet content provider” must first register for licenses with the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to be able to post information and/or do business online. This requirement was instated in September 2000 by the Telecommunications Regulations of the People’s Republic of China and Articles 3 and 4 of Administrative Measures on Internet-Based Information Systems.
According to Article 3 of the Administrative Measures on Internet-Based Information Systems, internet-based information services are divided into services of a commercial nature and services of a non-commercial nature. Article 4 states that the State shall implement a license system for internet-based information services of a commercial nature, and implement a filing-for-record system for internet-based information services of a non-commercial nature. No one shall engage in internet-based information services without having obtained a license or having completed the filing-for-record procedures.
There are two types of ICP permits available in China. Depending on your app, game, or platform, your enterprise may require one or both:
1.- ICP Filing (ICP备案) – The ICP filing is a legal requirement to host a website in China. It is also referred to as an ICP Beian or ICP Recordal. It is required for non-commercial websites by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and administered at the provincial level on a per-domain basis. You will need a separate ICP Filing for each top-level domain.
2.- ICP License (ICP许可证) – An ICP License allows a Chinese enterprise to release a website, platform, or program in China that generates revenue or provides a platform for others to generate revenue. Its official name is 信息服务业务(仅限互联网信息服务). It is also referred to as an ICP Zheng, ICP Commercial License, or a B25 ICP License, as it is controlled under category B25 in the Value-Added Telecommunication Services (VATS) licensing system. An ICP License is issued on a per-enterprise basis. You will still need to submit an ICP Filing for each top-level domain you use. These numbers follow the format 粤ICP证12345678号, where the first character indicates the province where the license was issued.
ICP Licenses are required for any commercial website that is not purely informational, paid games or games that have in-app payments and/or in-app advertising, apps that have in-app payments and/or in-app advertising, SaaS platforms, app stores or game stores, online marketplace for goods, services or information, online games, live streaming platforms (although an additional, separate license is also required for this as well), community platform services (a platform for question and answer, social sharing or communication), real-time interactive services (platorms with real-time communication, interactive voice IVR, and video call functions), information protection and processing services (mobile assistants, anti-virus software), shrinking query services (which are not included in browser, with content retrieval in app), information release and express services (maps, discount networks, libraries, life service and information browsing webpages).
By law, if you plan to publish or distribute an app or game in China, you will need either an ICP Filing or ICP License depending on the nature of your app or game. In the past, the Apple App Store China and many Android app stores were not strict at enforcing this, but currently the largest Android stores like Oppo, Xiaomi, Huawei etc. do require such license.
If your business plans to take money online from anyone in China for anything – whether through an app, game, SaaS or other platform – the only way to avoid getting an ICP License is by partnering with a Chinese enterprise that already has one.
Publishing your app or game with APPTUTTi can help you avoid getting an ICP License. By partnering with us, you would still need an ICP Filing (which WE can help you acquire), but you would not need to go through the process of applying for an ICP License because we already have it. If you are worried that your project has been copied or used without your permission on any Chinese software platform, the ICP Filing with an Authorization letter provided by YOU will give us the legal rights to demand those platforms to remove the pirated versions of your game/app.
Can a foreign (non-Chinese) company receive an ICP?
Foreign companies that don’t have a Chinese entity are not eligible to receive either an ICP Filing or ICP License. It is not enough to have a representative office in China: You must have a registered Chinese business license.
So how can a foreign company get an ICP License or ICP Filing to publish an app or game in China?
Foreign entities partner with Chinese internet companies and app distributors to use their licenses since foreign companies cannot be issued a game license in China. APPTUTTi provides services that can help you publish and operate in China while being in full legal compliance with all Chinese laws. We can help you get the licenses you need and even avoid some licensing requirements entirely due to our partnership agreement. When you sign up for APPTUTTi’s services, you retain full control and copyright over your app, game or platform through your contract agreement with us.