China NNN Agreement: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide


In today’s globalized business environment, with the increasing trend of multinational cooperation, the exchange of information between enterprises has become increasingly frequent. Particularly, when establishing partnerships with Chinese companies, safeguarding one’s intellectual property and trade secrets has become a crucial topic in international business. To effectively prevent the misuse, leakage, or circumvention of confidential information, more and more companies are adopting China NNN agreements – a legal document designed specifically for such collaborative relationships, ensuring a balanced protection of interests for both parties. This article aims to delve into the NNN agreements in cooperation with Chinese companies, providing a comprehensive explanation regarding its definition, significance, enforceability, and strategies for dealing with breach risks in practical operations. Additionally, starting from its definition, the article will explore various aspects of NNN agreements, including its position in the Chinese legal system, key considerations for customizing NNN agreements, and measures to take in case of breach. Through thorough analysis and discussion, our aim is to provide an informative guide for international enterprises preparing to collaborate with Chinese companies, assisting them in better understanding and applying NNN agreements to safeguard their business interests and intellectual property.

Why Choose China’s NNN Agreement

The NNN agreement, which stands for Non-Use, Non-Disclosure, and Non-Circumvention agreement, provides three layers of protection for sensitive information in business cooperation. Compared to traditional Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), the NNN agreement offers more comprehensive protection aimed at preventing partners from not only disclosing information but also utilizing it to produce similar products or bypassing the plaintiff to engage directly with customers or suppliers.

The relevant Chinese law associated with the NNN agreement is the “People’s Republic of China Anti-Unfair Competition Law.” This law aims to protect trade secrets, prevent unfair competition, and ensure the fairness of market competition. Concerning the protection of intellectual property rights, trade secrets, and prevention of breaches of business integrity, this law aligns closely with the objectives of the NNN agreement. Additionally, relevant provisions in the “Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China” provide a legal basis for contract enforcement and protection of trade secrets. Together, these laws form the legal framework for safeguarding business interests when conducting commercial activities in China.

In cooperation with Chinese companies, the NNN agreement is particularly crucial as it takes into account the unique legal environment and business practices in China. To ensure the effectiveness and enforceability of the agreement, a profound understanding of the Chinese legal system is necessary, and the agreement content should be tailored accordingly. Moreover, understanding how to take effective legal actions in case of breach is crucial for international enterprises.

China NNN agreement

Meaning and Function of China NNN Agreement

The essence of the NNN agreement lies in providing triple protection for confidential information and intellectual property in international cooperation, ensuring that information exchange between partners is both open and secure. This agreement is particularly suitable for collaborations involving high-value technologies, critical trade secrets, or innovative product designs.

Non-Use: This clause ensures that the collaborating Chinese company does not utilize the provided technology, product designs, or other trade secrets to produce and sell its products or serve other purposes. It is a fundamental protective measure aimed at ensuring that partners do not become direct competitors.

Non-Disclosure: This section requires the Chinese partner not to disclose any technical information, designs, business models, operational methods, or other confidential information accessed to any third party, whether individuals or enterprises. The non-disclosure clause is the core of traditional Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), but in the NNN agreement, it is combined with other clauses to provide more comprehensive protection.

Non-Circumvention: The non-circumvention clause prevents Chinese companies from bypassing established cooperative relationships and engaging directly with customers, suppliers, or other business partners, thereby protecting the market share and profit margins of the original business party. This is a unique part of the NNN agreement, particularly targeting situations where partners may use cooperative opportunities to establish their supply chains or sales channels.

Importance of Signing NNN Agreements in China

Signing NNN agreements in China can effectively protect foreign companies’ business secrets and intellectual property during processes such as technology transfer, product development, and production outsourcing. Given China’s specific legal environment, NNN agreements need to be customized specifically for Chinese law to ensure their enforceability and effectiveness. Having clear legal documents in case of disputes can help seek remedies in Chinese courts or arbitration institutions.

Potential Issues in OEM Production

If you are doing business with Chinese companies, signing NNN agreements (Non-Use, Non-Disclosure, and Non-Circumvention agreements) is an important step to protect intellectual property and trade secrets. The role of NNN agreements in China is primarily to ensure that technological and product information in the cooperation process is not misused or disclosed, especially in manufacturing cooperation involving prototypes, designs, or proprietary technologies. Here are some common issues:

  • Intellectual Property Leakage: Without sufficient legal protection, the risk of technology and trade secret leakage increases.
  • Quality Control: Ensuring that product quality meets expected standards can be a challenge, especially in multinational collaborations.
  • Delivery Time: Production and transportation delays can affect product launch timing and market competitiveness. Compliance and Standards: Ensuring that products comply with regulatory and standards requirements of the target market.

Industries Requiring Chinese OEM and China NNN Signing

China NNN: Related Industries

  • Electronics: Such as smartphones, tablets, computer hardware, etc.
  • Apparel and Textiles: Clothing, shoes, household textiles, etc.
  • Toys: Various children’s toys and games.
  • Industrial Products: From simple parts to complex machinery and equipment.

China NNN: Methods for Chinese Companies to Ship Goods to Overseas Companies

  • International Express: For fast shipping of small batches of high-value goods.
  • Sea Freight: Suitable for large-volume goods, lower cost but longer transit times.
  • Air Freight: Suitable for urgent goods, faster but higher cost. Cross-Border
  • E-commerce Logistics: Suitable for goods sold through e-commerce platforms, combining warehousing, customs clearance, and logistics services.

In practice, before signing an NNN agreement, it is advisable to consult professional legal advisors, especially lawyers familiar with Chinese law and international business practices, to ensure that the agreement’s content, form, and execution details meet the needs of protecting your business interests.

China NNN/NDA Agreement: Differences and Similarities

Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and Non-Use, Non-Disclosure, Non-Circumvention Agreement (NNN Agreement) are both important tools in international business practices to protect trade secrets and intellectual property. Although they have common goals, there are significant differences in coverage and protective measures.

Similarities of NNN and NDA of China:

  • Protection of confidential information: Both agreements aim to protect confidential information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure by third parties.
  • Legal Binding: Both NDA and NNN agreements are legally binding, and violation of agreement terms may lead to legal consequences.
  • Widespread Application: They have extensive applications in international trade, technology transfer, outsourcing cooperation, and other fields.

Differences and Coverage:

  • NDA typically focuses on preventing unauthorized disclosure of information. It is mainly used to protect confidential information in situations such as business negotiations and preliminary cooperation to ensure that information is only used for specific purposes of discussion.
  • NNN includes not only the non-disclosure part of NDA but also adds clauses of non-use and non-circumvention. This means that partners are not allowed to use the provided information to produce similar products by themselves, disclose information to third parties, or bypass the information provider to directly engage with their customers or suppliers.

Applicable Scenarios:

  • NDA is more suitable for any occasion requiring protection of confidential information exchange, such as discussions on new products or sharing of business plans.
  • NNN is more suitable for situations requiring more comprehensive protection, especially in manufacturing and supply chain cooperation involving product design and technology transfer.

Legal Consequences:

Although the legal consequences of breaches of both agreements may include compensation for damages, due to its broader protection scope, the legal consequences of breaching the NNN agreement may be more severe, especially concerning illegal use and circumvention behavior.

When choosing between NDA and NNN agreements, companies need to decide based on their specific needs, cooperation scenarios, and required levels of protection. If only basic information protection is needed, an NDA may suffice; however, if more comprehensive protection is required, especially in collaborations with external production or design partners, the NNN agreement will provide more comprehensive legal protection. Consulting professional legal advisors before signing any agreement to ensure that the agreement’s content meets the company’s protection needs is essential.

China NNN- engaging in the signing of an NNN agreement

China NNN Issues in GWBMA Case

An innovative consumer electronics company based in the United States developed a new smartwatch with unique health monitoring features. To reduce production costs, the company decided to collaborate with a manufacturing company in China to produce the smartwatch. Before formal cooperation began, both parties signed an NNN agreement to protect the design and technology of the US company from misuse or leakage.

During the production process, the US company discovered competitor products in the market with remarkably similar functionality and design. Upon investigation, suspicion arose that the Chinese manufacturing partner had leaked technical and design information.

How to Handle

  • Take Immediate Action: The US company first issued a legal notice to the Chinese manufacturer, demanding an immediate halt to any potential technical and design leaks and initiating an internal investigation. Targeted company inquiries are needed. Thorough background checks using MANUAL VERIFICATION COMPANY REPORT. Conduct comprehensive background checks on any partners before signing contracts to ensure they have a good track record of business integrity and intellectual property protection.
  • Utilize the NNN Agreement: The US company pursued legal action or arbitration according to the terms of the NNN agreement, seeking compensation for losses and requiring the Chinese party to cease any infringing activities. The existence of the NNN agreement provided a legal basis for the US company.
  • Seek Legal Support: In China, cases involving intellectual property protection and trade secrets typically require professional legal support. The US company should engage a team of lawyers familiar with the Chinese legal environment to ensure effective response and protection of rights.
  • Negotiate Settlement: Concurrent with legal actions, both parties can attempt to resolve the dispute through negotiation, potentially involving compensation for losses, redefining cooperation terms, etc., to quickly restore normal business activities.
  • Strengthen Future Protection Measures: Regardless of the dispute outcome, the US company should reassess cooperation models and confidentiality measures with external partners, potentially including strengthening contract terms and improving intellectual property protection strategies.
  • Customize the NNN Agreement: Ensure the NNN agreement is tailored, clearly listing all necessary protection measures, and customized for the nature of the cooperation.

Through this case, we can see the importance of the NNN agreement in international cooperation and the importance of taking the correct steps when problems arise. Faced with potential intellectual property leaks and challenges in protecting trade secrets, with adequate preparation and appropriate legal support, international enterprises can effectively safeguard their interests.

Basic Steps and Recommendations for Dealing with Chinese Companies’ Violation of Chinese NNN Agreements

When facing Chinese companies’ violations of NNN agreements, foreign companies do encounter specific challenges mainly due to the characteristics of Chinese law and legal practices. Here are some basic steps and recommendations aimed at helping foreign companies take action in such situations:

Prepare Sufficient Evidence:

Before initiating any legal action, it is essential to prepare sufficient evidence to prove the breach. This includes but is not limited to contract texts, email correspondences, meeting records, exchange records of technical documents, etc., to demonstrate that the other party has violated the agreement terms.

Consult Professional Legal Advisors:

Given the uniqueness of Chinese law, it is crucial to seek professional lawyers or legal advisors familiar with Chinese law, particularly in intellectual property protection and contract law. While foreign law firms have limited direct practice scope in China, they typically have partnerships with local law firms that can provide necessary legal services.

Choose the Appropriate Legal Approach:

Arbitration: Many NNN agreements include arbitration clauses specifying the dispute resolution mechanism. If arbitration is designated as the dispute resolution mechanism in the agreement, it usually means applying to the designated arbitration institution. China recognizes and enforces international arbitration awards, which can be an effective resolution approach. Litigation: If the agreement does not specify arbitration or both parties opt for litigation, it will be necessary to file a lawsuit in Chinese courts. According to Chinese law and practice, litigation will be conducted in the Chinese people’s court where the defendant is registered or where the breach occurred.

Take Legal Action:

After discussions with lawyers or legal advisors, take legal actions based on their advice. This may include sending legal notices, initiating arbitration proceedings, or filing lawsuits in court. Litigation or arbitration in China can be a complex and time-consuming process, requiring patience and readiness to face possible challenges.

Consider Settlement:

In some cases, considering settling the dispute through negotiation may be a quicker and less costly solution. Settlement can occur at any time, before, during, or near the end of legal actions, based on practical circumstances and business considerations.

Overall, when facing Chinese companies’ violations of NNN agreements, the most crucial aspect is to prepare legally sound contracts in advance, clarify dispute resolution mechanisms, and seek assistance from professional legal advisors when disputes arise. This not only effectively safeguards one’s rights but also helps resolve cross-border business disputes in a more professional and efficient manner.


Through an in-depth exploration of the structure and function of NNN agreements, it becomes apparent their significance in protecting intellectual property and trade secrets in international cooperation between enterprises and Chinese companies. Proper application of this agreement not only prevents the leakage of trade secrets but also avoids potential business risks and economic losses. Additionally, successful cooperation is built on trust and respect between parties, and the NNN agreement provides a legal foundation for achieving this goal. Finally, our law firm, Diligent & Integrity Law Firm is one of the largest law firms in China and your best choice.

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