It is a well-known marketing fact that good attractive and meaningful brand name can get you the competitive edge over your competitors.
Small businesses in China !
Small businesses even try to use those brand names which are similar or somehow related to successful brands. They either use the transliteration of those successful brands or swap few letters. It helps them to get instant recognition and brand awareness without spending too much effort and assets. It seems beneficial strategy for small businesses but it Also has some legal consequences. Recently, the similar case appeared in Chinese court when a Chinese person trademarked the Chinese transliteration of Pinfold under his own name. Pinfold is the winery and brand of Treasury Wine Estates (TWS) which is one of the most famous wine company not only in Australia but also all over the world.
“Ben Fu” Pinfold
The Chinese literal translation of Pinfold is Ben Fu and the person who trademarked it was not using any winery purpose. Moreover, it was also creating confusion among Chinese people about the Pinfold because they are using the word “Ben Fu” for Pinfold from several years. Due to this reason, TWE decided to get the copyrights of “Ben Fu” and they went to court to get it instead of contacting the owner of the trademark. The main reason behind this approach of TWS was that they always considered Ben FU as their Chinese brand name of Pinfold and they were not going buy their own brand name from anyone else. This was basically a dispute over the intellectual property because Pinfold of TWS is very old brand and it has a very strong association with Ben Fu, therefore, it is not ethically right for any person to use Ben Fu as its own trademark. It creates a very dubious environment for the foreign investors because anyone can use the transliteration of famous brands for its own benefits.
Canceled the trademark and allowed TWS to use the Chinese translation of pinfold as per their desire
Beijing High People’s Court canceled the trademark and allowed TWS to use the Chinese translation of pinfold as per their desire. This case and its result are very important for China and multinational companies because it clearly indicated that China is ready to facilitate foreign businesses and their courts are making efforts to create a comfortable environment for them.
The result of this intellectual property (IP) dispute encouraged TWS and other foreign companies to get the copyrights of all their brand names and their Chinese transliteration. The IP counselor in Beijing, David Bennet, has said that the rulings of this case demonstrate that Chinese court system is very strong and it has fair IP system which gives no favor to anyone. It was very important for Chinese wine market because wine export market of China is worth more than 470 million dollars per year. It is one of the richest exports markets of China because usually Chinese people prefer local and traditional products. This ruling gave confidence to all wine brands in china to take their claim to court and also discouraged people to manipulate brand names unethically.
Trademarked just to blackmail the company, TWS
Another big reason for this ruling was that the owner of trademark Ben Fu was not using it and it was trademarked just to blackmail the company, TWS. It is the worst case scenario for any foreign business in any country because foreign investors can’t work freely if they have to face blackmailers. The court used the word “Bad Faith” to describe the whole situation. It has set the standard for all other similar cases. This caused was filed in 2012 and the rulings were issues in the first month of 2017. This case took too much time but the results are very bright and hopefully, other cases will be resolved more quickly as the court has set standards for this type of situations. Foreign companies are very excited about it and they are now making strategies to enter smoothly in Chinese markets. Apple is also planning to get copyrights of all its brands before launching its products in China. It will help Apple to get maximum benefits from its marketing and promotion efforts.
President of TWE Robert Foye expressed his gratitude toward Chinese court of people and said that the decision of court proves that only TWS is the legitimate owners of Ben Fu. He is also managing director of the company in Asia and Europe, therefore, he also understands the importance of this decision for the future of TWS in Europe and Asia.