Design Rights Protection in South-East Asia

shutterstock_385731427In today’s blog post, we are discussing the protection of design rights in South-East Asia. You’ll learn how to protect the aesthetic aspects of your products or how to protect some aspects of your product packaging. The article also gives an overview on how to enforce your rights once an infringement has occurred.

It is essential for SMEs doing business in South-East Asia to protect their intellectual property rights, as poor IP strategy often leads to the end of business endeavor in the region. Design rights are useful, but oftentimes overlooked means of protecting IP in South-East Asia.

An industrial design right, also known as a design patent in certain jurisdictions, is an exclusive right, which protects designs which give a competitive edge to the owner over competitors due to their aesthetic appeal. Industrial designs can take the form of either two- or three-dimensional shapes, configuration or patterns. Prominent examples include the iPod, shape of the Coca Cola bottle, computer icons, and even the design of mobile applications.

To obtain industrial design protection, SMEs must file an application to register the design in all the countries they foresee business activities, since design rights like other IP rights are territorial. Like patents, protection for industrial rights lasts for a limited period and the duration can vary from country to country. Generally, protection lasts for at least 10 years. Continue reading “Design Rights Protection in South-East Asia” »

China’s trademark law: Evicting the squatters

Today’s blog post has been kindly drafted for us by Ms. Marie Ferey and Mr. Fabio Giacopello from HFG Law & Intellectual Property. Ms. Ferey and Mr. Giacopello use several high-profile case studies to discuss how companies can fight against trade mark squatters in China. 

Several high-profile cases show that trademark owners in China can succeed in removing squatters. Marie Ferey and Fabio Giacopello of HFG report.

When it was introduced the new Chinese Trademark Law (TML) didn’t seem tough enough against trademark squatting, but after three years of implementation we have found that the TML has many resources and provisions that can be used to stop malicious trademarks.

‘Face book’

On January 24, 2011, an individual called Hongqun Liu filed an application for registering ‘face book’ as a trademark before the Chinese Trademark Office (CTMO). It designated “vegetable canned food, potato chips” in class 29, “coffee beverage, tea beverage and candy” in class 30, and “fruit juice (beverage), iced (beverage), vegetable juice (beverage)” in class 32. The trademarks were preliminarily approved by the CTMO.

Social media platform Facebook later undertook legal action in order to invalidate the trademarks and succeeded at the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court. According to article 44 of China’s TML, the court stated: “If improper means are found in the examination stage of a trademark application, it is detrimental to restrain such means by cancellation of a registered trademark instead of rejecting the registration at the approval stage.”

In this case, Facebook succeeded in proving that Liu had filed multiple applications for ‘face book’ trademarks in many different classes. Besides, Liu has also registered reproductions and imitations of others trademarks with high reputation. Continue reading “China’s trademark law: Evicting the squatters” »

Protecting the Interior Design of Shops in China

6. Fashion and DesignIn today’s blog post we are taking a closer look on how European SMEs could protect the interior design of shops in China, as it is not unprecedented that even the design of your shop may get copied. You’ll  learn more about trade dress, copyright and design patent protection as viable options for protecting the interior design of your shop. 

When Brent Hoberman, founder of online interior design and furniture store, made a trip to China one man was particularly keen to meet him. When they met, the man explained that he wanted to launch a web business but had no idea how to do it until he found and copied it. He only wished to express his appreciation personally to Mr Hoberman.

In 2011 the residents of Kunming, a city in the South-Western region of China were delighted to find an IKEA shop there. The copycat store is an enormous, multi-level shop that sells modern IKEA-like furniture and even copies the distinctive blue and yellow branding. The residents realized it was a fake, but have little choice as the closest real IKEA is in Chongqing, 940km away.

Store layouts, colours and designs become synonymous with a brand, so imitation of a store interior is very damaging to companies. At times it is increasingly difficult to separate the real from the fake.

There is a saying in China, 山高皇帝远 (shāngāo huángdìyuǎn), which means the mountains are high and the emperor is far away, a saying that perfectly encapsulates the reason why some counterfeiting still happens in China, particularly in faraway places such as Kunming. Continue reading “Protecting the Interior Design of Shops in China” »

IP Considerations in Fashion, Design and Lifestyle industry in South-East Asia

fashion2In today’s blog post we are discussing IP protection in fashion, design and lifestyle sector, as this sector is offering more and more business opportunities to  European SMEs in South-East Asia. You’ll learn how to protect your brand in South-East Asia as well as how to protect your design and other creative works.  

The fashion, design and lifestyle sector is a significant driver in South-East Asia’s creative economy. The global fashion industry has traditionally been one of the most lucrative industries, with sales generated in the trillions globally. This is especially true in South-East Asia, where consumers gravitate towards fashion and do not shy away from paying top dollar for luxury fashion products. Singapore, for instance, holds a 2% share of the world apparel market and their fashion industry generates sales of USD3.6 billion[1] (approx. EUR3.1 billion). In Indonesia, it contributed about USD49.3 trillion (approx. EUR42.8 trillion) to the GDP, with the fashion industry alone accounting for 28% of total earnings in the creative economy[2].

Among the South-East Asian countries, the design and lifestyle industry is classified as emerging industries especially in Singapore where, an ad hoc organization, the Design Singapore Council, was established in 2003 to help develop the nation’s design sector, following the Economic Review Committee’s report which identified the creative industry as one of the three new sectors for economic growth of the country.  Similarly, the Thai government is making investments to further strengthen its fashion industry, as for example it is actively supporting the “Bangkok Fashion City” project launched in February 2004, which aims to turn Bangkok into a fashion hub in the South East Asia region and into a world fashion centre.[3]

Given the potential for growth in the fashion, design and lifestyle economy in the South-East Asia region, there is tremendous value in understanding how SMEs can protect their intellectual property in the region. Even though, IP laws and regulations have been considerably improved in most South-East Asian Countries, counterfeiting and other IP violations are still commonplace in the region and thus a comprehensive IP strategy is needed before starting business in the fashion and lifestyle industry in South-East Asia. Continue reading “IP Considerations in Fashion, Design and Lifestyle industry in South-East Asia” »

Marking Your Territory: Choosing a Trade Mark in China

trademarkChoosing a Chinese equivalent for your brand name can oftentimes be a challenging task.  In today’s blog post we’re taking a closer look at what you need to know when choosing your trade mark in China.  We are using the famous New Balance case to offer some tips on how to choose a good trade mark in China. 

In one of the most famous trade mark infringement case, New Balance Trading (China) – the Chinese affiliate of US sports footwear brand, New Balance – was ordered by a Guangzhou court to pay RMB98 million in compensation (equivalent to approximately EUR14.3 million), and to publicly apologise to Chinese businessman, Mr Yuelin Zhou, for trademark infringement. The trade mark in question was “新百伦”, or “Xin Bai Lun”, a Chinese transliteration of “New Balance”. This case serves as a sharp reminder of how vital it is for foreign brands to register a Chinese trade mark in China, and how cutting corners may result in high financial penalties later down the line. This article takes a look at how to best choose a Chiniese name for your brand when doing business in China.

Chinese consumer culture: why choose a Chinese name?

China possesses one third of the world’s consumers and is the largest market for luxury goods in the world. Between 2010 and 2014, European Union (EU) imports to China grew by around 12% on average annually.

Taking time to carefully consider a Chinese trade mark when importing a brand to China is important for several reasons. Firstly, because foreign brands or company names are often difficult to pronounce – or carry different meanings – in Chinese. If a company fails to provide its own Chinese name or trade mark, Chinese consumers will choose their own. Secondly, in a country where each character holds its own distinctive meaning, the characters used in a foreign branded trade mark, along with the sound, tone and look of Chinese characters, can significantly impact a brand’s reputation. Continue reading “Marking Your Territory: Choosing a Trade Mark in China” »