09.07.09 18:09 Age: 14 yrs
Trademarks of international businesses are well protected in China
With China's global presence increasing at a phenomenal rate abroad, and international investment flooding into the country, trademark registration is turning out to be a topic high on the agenda list of any company incorporated in China, be it domestic or international.
The Chinese legislature has recognised the growing importance of all intellectual property law rights, from trademarks to patents. The revised 2001 Trademark Law seeks to deal with changes in China's growing domestic market, such as an increase in the maximum statutory damages that can be awarded, and the inclusion of three dimensional marks deemed satisfactory for registration purposes. Coinciding with China's WTO commitments and obligations, that promised stronger enforcement of trademark rights, China has started making progressive steps to protect the rights of others in an attempt to curb the rapid spate of counterfeiting.
One advantage from the 2001 Trademark Law companies can benefit from is the registration of well known marks, with Chivas Regal being one of the most recent companies to jump onto the trademark registration bandwagon. The Chinese Trade Mark Office (CTMO) recognised both 'Chivas Regal' and 'Chivas' as "well known trademarks" satisfying the criteria laid down under Article 14 of the 2001 Trademark Law. The former name being registered in both English and Chinese characters, and the latter in English. Chivas' scope of protection is not merely limited to "goods" under Class 33 (alcoholic beverages) but cross-class protection if registration of a new product is likely to cause public confusion.
With China accounting for the largest market of Chivas Regal whiskey, and with significant levels of investments being ploughed into the country for promotional reasons, the rubber stamped approval of the Chivas trademark ensures that a third party cannot appropriate the good name and accrued reputation Chivas has amassed over their years of business. Charles Chan, Foreign Legal Counsel at Lehman, Lee & Xu detailed that "the recognition of an international brand name such as Chivas Regal attaining copyright protection in China indicates how far China has progressed in aligning its stance with that of other countries."
Chivas' brand name protection marks the second victory for the whiskey industry in its steady battle against Chinese counterfeiting. Earlier in 2008, the CTMO granted trademark protection to 'Scotch whiskey,' which, registered as a collective trademark prohibits counterfitters from passing off spirits that have not been produced in Scotland.
Further progress taken by the Chinese authorities also included an award of $180,000 to Diageo, the manufacturers of Johnnie Walker Black Label, after a Shanghai based firm was found guilty of unlawfully infringing upon the trademarked Johnnie Walker packaging.
Eion Murdock, Foreign Legal Counsel at Lehman, Lee & Xu highlighted that "both the Chivas Regal and the Johnnie Walker issues highlights that in order to protect potential investment into China from international companies in the future, the courts need to uphold and protect their identifiable intellectual property rights," he continues "by actually doing this the judiciary are opening the door for more foreign companies to sell their products in China, as they know that their trademarks will be protected, upheld and enforced under Chinese law."