By King & Wood Mallesons’ Trademark Group
Currently, trademark protection is becoming one of the hottest topics in China. The latest headlines include the NBA star Michael Jordan suing the Chinese sportswear and footwear manufacture Qiaodan Sports Joint Stock Company for the alleged infringement over his name right, the preemptive registration of the mark "LIN SHU HAO (Jeremy Lin’s Chinese name)", and the domain name "lingshuhao.com" being for sale at a high price.
These trademark-related cases have drawn great attention among scholars and China’s online community (often referred to as "netizens"). Most netizens gave their opinions in a rational manner and appealed for fair treatment over the parties involved within the purview of relevant laws and regulations. Some netizens acknowledged that China has changed from a single and occlusive market to an open and international one and the interaction and competition with foreign companies are more intensified than before. China will be left far behind if the market lacks honesty and legal rules.
Some scholars have the view that for some Chinese companies, free riding on others’ famous brands or names may be of great help in the early stages of their business, so as to boost sales or increase popularity; yet it is definitely a time bomb for the company in the long run. For Jordan Sports, whether the case is decided in its favor or not, the damage on its business is inevitable.
Furthermore, recent cases also indicate that some foreign companies are not attaching sufficient significance to Chinese laws. Ongoing cases warn foreign companies that respecting and studying national laws is a prerequisite to doing business in China. On the other hand, the heated discussion on trademark issues implies that IP protection has became a focus of attention among Chinese citizens, as well as the media and society in general. The attention from the public will apply pressure on Chinese enterprises to change their IP protection strategies while endeavoring to update their manufacturing and management style. (Contributed by Kathy Liu and Haiting Liu)
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