Land Rover Fails to Register their IP (Lessons for Buyers)

LuHu vs. LuHu – The Road Tiger

If you like cars and if you have been to a major city in China recently, you certainly noticed the growing number of Land Rovers and Ranger Rovers joining the ranks of the Audi’s, BMWs and Mercedes as the must-have rides of the expanding upper middle class in China.

So simple, so inexpensive

Land Rover should be commended for their market penetration skills. But in a twist of fate, failure to follow some basic and inexpensive steps to protect their brand’s intellectual property in China, is now casting a shadow over their success.

You sneaky little…

As you may have read in the March 2011 headlines already, Land Rover is getting ready for a fight in China with a Chinese manufacturer that has registered a similar sounding brand name.  In China, the Land Rover brand is registered as “LuHu” which means “Road Tiger”.  Way back in 1999 when the first Land Rovers started popping up in China, local car maker Geely Auto registered “Land Tiger” which is also pronounced as “LuHu.”

If you remember only one thing about China IP, it should be that China is a First-To-Register (FTR) system rather than First-To-Market. It is conceivable that the Geely could counter sue Land Rover, despite the fact that Land Rover was in both the global marketplace and China marketplace for a long time before Geely registered LuHu.

Heart break for new owners Tata

Here is the sad part for Land Rover: registration of a brand name only takes a few 1000 USD and is a straight forward process. Plus a good lawyer would have done a search for conflicts that sound similar to LuHu and perhaps the involved parties could have sorted this out back in 1999 before the Land Rover name became famous.

Regardless of your product and your destination market, even if you are sourcing from China but not planning to sell your products in China, you should still register your IP before a local firm or foreign competitor registers it first!

How about some good news?

The good news is that if you follow the Chinese FTR system, you may be surprised to learn that, these days; the courts in China are doing a better job of enforcing IPR. BUT, you have to play by the rules and that means registering IN China!

The other good news is that should you go to court, you will find the costs of a legal battle are much less in China than back home, assuming you use local law firms. Luckily English speaking, PRC registered lawyers are easy to find these days. By registering your IP in advance, you will have the law on your side if you run into any Land Tigers!


Wishing you successful China Sourcing!

Mike Bellamy

Author, “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing



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