Trademark troubles for watches connected to Da Vinci Code movie

A Hong Kong gift company whose Da Vinci watches are part of the official promotion campaign for the opening of Hollywood thriller The Da Vinci Code tomorrow has been handed a temporary advertising ban by the High Court in a trademark infringement case.

Mr Justice Michael Burrell of the Court of First Instance yesterday ordered a temporary restriction to stop Da Vinci Collections (HK) Limited from advertising its watches with the name and logo of Da Vinci.

The lawsuit was filed after a Swiss hand-made watchmaker, Richemont International SA, argued the local company had violated its trademark.

However, Mr Justice Burrell allowed a grace period until May 24 after which the local company must stop all advertising. He adjourned the full hearing to June 19.

According to the temporary restriction, the Hong Kong company cannot advertise with the words 'Da Vinci Timepiece' or similar words. The wording 'for the movie' could not be used for attribution to the watch advertised.

The judge also ordered that the words 'Da Vinci Code' could be used only to refer to the book or movie, so in any public mention or adverts, the full name Da Vinci Collections (HK) Limited or Da Vinci Collections Group, must be used.

The court was told that the gift company had entered a 19-month agreement with the film's distributor, Sony Pictures, to have its watches advertised for the promotion of The Da Vinci Code, until September 2007. Counsel for the plaintiff, Ronny Wong Fook-hum SC, argued yesterday that the advertisement would cause irreparable damage to his client's IWC watch business, which has developed a line of luxury timepieces called 'Da Vinci' sold under a registered trademark.

Mr Wong said the advertisement placed under the agreement was causing a 'confusion of identity' to the public. He said the goodwill of IWC would be severely damaged as a result of the massive publicity campaign for the film. Mr Wong also accused Da Vinci Collections (HK) Limited of 'cashing in on the film' by placing those advertisements.

Barrister Paul Carolan, for Da Vinci Collections (HK) Limited, argued that the action taken by IWC was also 'cashing in' because his client had been producing and selling the watches for two years without any attempt at an injunction of this kind by IWC.

Mr Carolan told the court that two advertisements had already run in the last issue of Next Magazine and the in-flight magazine of Singapore Airlines, and other ad placements had been booked prior to yesterday's court hearing.