Bitter dispute over Wing Wah mooncake brand back in court

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 9:09am

Hong Kong mooncake maker Wing Wah was again in court on the mainland yesterday in a retrial over the use of its brand name.

The 63-year-old bakery has been locked in a 15-year legal battle with Guangdong businessman Su Guorong over its trademark and product design.

Now, the case is being heard in the Guangdong Higher People's Court.

And in keeping with a recent move towards more open and transparent proceedings, the Guangdong Higher People's Court uploaded transcripts every two or three hours on its official Sina Weibo microblog.

Photos from inside the court showed both parties displaying their products - which have a similar packaging design featuring flowers in bloom and a full moon - for comparison.

Wing Wah is demanding a 10 million yuan payout and full rights to the use of its trademark and design.

In April, the Dongguan Intermediate People's Court upheld the Hong Kong firm's rights to its famous trademark although it had not been registered on the mainland.

Su was ordered to pay 500,000 yuan (HK$629,000) in compensation to the Wing Wah Group and its subsidiary in Dongguan for causing economic losses.

But both parties were dissatisfied with the ruling and took the case to the higher court.

Professor Gu Minkang, of City University's law faculty, said providing court transcripts on the internet was fast becoming the favoured approach on the mainland.

"Justice has to be sought - it is basically what people on the mainland are asking for, particularly on judicial rulings," Gu said.

"With the introduction of [an account on] microblogging platform Weibo, the government has taken a significant step towards embracing the nation's most popular form of digital communication."

A Wing Wah Group spokeswoman welcomed the shift towards more open court trials, but would not comment on the case.

Wing Wah first made mooncakes in Yuen Long in 1950. It entered the mainland market in the early 1980s but did not apply for a trademark. In 1997 Su registered the trademark Wing Wah in encircled simplified characters.

Wing Wah began producing mooncakes under two different names two months ago in a bid to differentiate its products from the latecomer's.

Its products are sold under the Wing Wah name in its mainland shops while its distributors get the mooncakes under the Yuen Long Wing Wah brand.

The trial continues.