Pfizer goes to court to fight for Viagra

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 12:00am

Updated at 6.50pm, Thursday:
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer went to court on Wednesday to reclaim the domain name ''viagra.com.cn,'' which is named after the company's pills.


After foiling several dozen mainland drug makers who pirated the name ''Viagra'' in Chinese earlier this year, Pfizer brought Shenzhen Online to court.


The defendant is a portal and ISP owned by two China Telecom subsidiaries, and it's the second largest company of its kind in the booming Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Pfizer is accuses the firm of violating the Viagra trademark by registering viagra.com.cn.


Shenzhen Online argued that it registered the name in 1998, before Pfizer was approved to sell Viagra in China. The company also argued that the registration does not damage Pfizer because it has not launched a Web site by the same name.


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Pfizer lawyer Zhang Ning told SCMP.com Pfizer took the Shenzhen company to court because the ISP didn't answer Pfizer's earlier request to give up the domain name.


Mr Zhang said a series of legal victories over ''cyber-squatters'' made them confident they could win the case next month. Since summer, mainland courts have ruled in favour of multinational trademark owners in four high-profile domain name disputes.


Mr Zhang said the lawsuit should make Shenzhen Online give up its domain name. Even though the ISP lost the name in October because it didn't pay a registration fee on time, Pfizer still wants the court to rule that the local company violated its trademark.


Right after Shenzhen Online lost the Viagra domain name, another Shenzhen company applied for it, the lawyer said. He said Pfizer could apply for ''viagra.com.cn'' only after the registration centre turned down the second applicant earlier this month. The application was rejected because the applicant couldn't prove it owned the trademark.


A Shenzhen Online spokesman said Pfizer asked his company in March to give up the domain name. But he told SCMP.com he did not expect Pfizer to bring such a ''rivial'' thing to court.


''We registered the name for fun. It used be a common practice in the burgeoning stage of Internet development. It has nothing to do with cyber-squatting,'' said the spokesman, who refused to give his name. ''We won't be intimidated by the big American company. We'll fight on. At least it will give us some free publicity.''
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