Burberry appeals China trademark restriction

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 4:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 6:26pm

Burberry, Britain's largest luxury goods maker, is appealing a decision by Chinese regulators to restrict the company's trademark on its hallmark chequered pattern for leather goods.

The regulators' decision would not take effect and there would be no change to Burberry's use of its trademark for leather or other products before a decision on the appeal, the company said yesterday.

Companies from Apple to Danone have fought legal battles over brand rights in China. Apple paid US$60 million last year to settle a two-year-old dispute regarding the iPad trademark in the country with Proview International, which had applied to Chinese customs to block domestic shipments of the United States company's tablets.

"In China, it's been very difficult traditionally for major companies to protect their brand," said Corbett Wall, a Shanghai-based managing partner of +CW Associates, a retail consultancy. "The whole idea of intellectual property is still at its beginning stages."

Burberry was "confident that our appeal will be successful", the company said.

The China Trade Mark Office restriction was related to its "Check" trademark, which related only to leather goods, it said.

Calls to the information office of the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry & Commerce were not answered.

Burberry's Asia unit won a court case in Hong Kong in 2010 against Polo Santa Roberta, a maker of leather bags and belts, over three check pattern designs registered between April 2006 and January 2008.

Danone, the world's largest yogurt maker, lost a Chinese appeals court ruling in May 2009 in a dispute with Hangzhou Wahaha over ownership of the Wahaha trademark.

Paris-based Danone had accused Hangzhou Wahaha of violating a joint-venture agreement by making products under the brand name outside their partnership. A Chinese court had refused to reverse a 2007 ruling that gave Wahaha control over the trademark, the Chinese company said at the time.

Former National Basketball Association star Michael Jordan sued Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports in February last year for using his Chinese name and jersey number 23 without permission. Qiaodan in April denied the unauthorised use of Jordan's name and said it sued him for damages.

Wall said he advised every foreign firm looking to come to China to develop their trademarks before starting business on the mainland.

China had become increasingly important to global luxury brands, and Burberry got about 39 per cent of annual revenue from the Asia-Pacific, data showed.

Chinese consumers were the world's biggest buyers of luxury goods last year, accounting for 27 per cent of industry sales, according to consultant McKinsey & Co.