Japan faces fresh local outcry

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 12:00am

A mainland company has filed a suit in a Beijing court demanding compensation of five million yuan (about HK$4.68 million) from the camera giant Olympus.

It is the second major Japanese company to face a legal challenge on the mainland within a week.

The Handu Industrial Development Company of Xuzhou, Jiangsu province filed suit on Monday in the Beijing High Court, alleging infringement of a brand name for which it received a patent in December 1998.

Privately-owned Handu was set up in 1993 to produce clothing and clothing accessories, belts, leather shoes and cameras.

Managing director Song Tijin said that in 1996 it applied for a patent for 'Qian Xi Long' (Thousand Happiness Dragon) which it received in December 1998.

'Our goods sold very well with this brand. I cannot give you the sales figure because that is a commercial secret,' he said.

'But, from the start of this year, we discovered Olympus was using the same brand on its cameras.' This year Olympus had sold more than 10,000 cameras with the brand at department stores in 14 major mainland cities.

'The purpose of our law suit is not the money but to protect the interest of consumers. They are buying the Japanese product which is in fact a fake when they should be buying ours,' he said.

'I chose a court in Beijing because courts there have much experience in handling these kinds of cases and because the National Patent Bureau is there.' The suit also demands Olympus withdraw from the market all its products bearing the 'Qian Xi Long' brand.

A mainland spokesman for Olympus said it had sent the news of the suit to its head office in Tokyo and was awaiting further instructions.

'We are also conducting an internal investigation into the matter,' he said but declined to make further comment.

Last Thursday, three users of Toshiba computer notebooks, filed a suit in Beijing, asking for 93,000 yuan in compensation, a public apology and legal costs.

The suit says that Toshiba knew for 10 years that its notebook contained faults, including in the floppy disk control system, but did not correct them and did not tell users about them.

The Toshiba case has become a national crusade with the media running stories about it every day and several stores announcing they will no longer sell goods made by the company.

In an angry commentary yesterday, the China Youth Daily compared the attitude of the Toshiba management to Japanese politicians who apologise for crimes committed by their country during World War II, using sweet words but lacking sincerity.

The problem is the attitude of the company in not attaching proper importance to the needs of Chinese consumers, it said.

'It is not the first Japanese company to have this problem and will not be the last.'