In the 1988 Eddie Murphy film “Coming to America”, the restaurant owned by Cleo called “McDowell’s” is under investigation from McDonald’s for copying their franchise. Hijinks and hilarity ensue as Cleo tries not to get caught. This makes for good comedy in the movies, but it is not so funny when it is your brand being knocked off in China.
In past articles I wrote about how Land Rover had their name pirated in China. This week Hermes and Michael Jordan appear to have made the same mistakes.
China Daily writes “a Chinese court has rejected a bid by Hermes, the French fashion icon, to register a translation of its name, because a Chinese company has registered a similar trademark.” Read full article here.
Do these logos look similar?
The Chinese characters read “QiaoDan” which is the phonetic translation of the family name Jordan and most commonly associated with Michael Jordon. Yet (perhaps after watching Coming to America) the knock off artists at QiaoDan shoes had the balls to say:
“We just use a Chinese translation of a common foreign family name and it cannot be identified with Michael Jordan,” said Hou Lidong, manager of the public relations department of Qiaodan Sports.
Then after somebody pointed out that the QiaoDan company even uses Michael Jordan’s red and black colors and the famous #23 in their marketing, they changed their story to the following:
Later, the company issued a statement, saying the brand, Chinese Qiaodan, is legally registered in China and protected by domestic law.
Read the full article here.
Basically they are saying, “yeah, we stole the logo and name Jordan, but we registered first in China, so screw you Michael.”
The case is not closed, but since China is a “first to register” rather than “first to market” IP system, there is a good change MJ could end up like Hermes.
To prevent loss of your IP, I highly suggest that 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! And register your brand in Chinese language too!
The good news is that if you follow the Chinese 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. I don’t provide legal services, but contact me if you would like to be introduced to the IP lawyers who have helped me register my IP in China.
Follow these links for articles and videos about how to protect your IP in China and avoid getting knocked off:
Wishing you successful China sourcing!
About the blogger
Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center (www.ChinaSourcingInfo.org). He is also the author of, “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing” (chinasourcinginfo.org/book) and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions (www.PSSchina.com)