China / Society

Judge rules ‘Haager-Dasz’ is trademark infringement

By Yang Yao ( Updated: 2012-12-03 19:53

A court in Beijing has confiscated the “Haager-Dasz” trademark from a clothing manufacturer, saying the public would confuse the name with the well-known Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

Beijing No 1 Intermediate People’s Court on Dec 3 made a ruling in favor of General Mills Co, the American food corporation, which sought to remove the trademark from clothing.

On June 3, 2003, a manufacturer applied to register “Haager-Dasz” as a trademark for clothing items. General Mills, the owner of the Haagen-Dazs brand, raised objections with the trade appeal board of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

The board found that the materials provided by General Mills failed to prove that it has been “well-known in China’s relevant public with high reputation” and therefore granted the Haager-Dasz registration.

General Mills appealed the board’s decision to the court.

The court found the ice cream mark is a well-known brand, and the disputed trademark, which is an imitation of Haagen-Dazs, would mislead the public and create confusion.

The court ruled against the board and told it to quash its original ruling.

Judge Cui Xuefeng said that the ruling was intended to stop speculative enterprises from maliciously registering trademarks.

"Haagen-Dazs already has a high reputation and prominence in the Chinese market and should have been recognized as a well-known brand,” Cui said. “The clothing manufacturer made only minor changes to the wording of the mark. Its intention is obviously malicious.”

The court on the same day recognized five other trademarks as well-known: the vehicle Jeep, the milk powder Dumex, the condiment Totole, the oven-goods maker Vatti, and Tsinghua University.

Cui said that the low cost of trademark registration and the high profits possible are the motivation of copyright abuse. Some corporations, lawyers and agents even specialize in malicious registration and sell the marks later to earn quick money.

"No one is entitled to warehouse potentially useful marks as there is a regulation in trademark law that non-use for three consecutive years is evidence of abandonment,” Cui said. “Trademark law only protects marks that are being used. ”

The judge proposed to expand the scope of protection in regard to well-known trademarks in his recently published research report.

"For example, the characters in books or movies are sometimes registered as trademarks,” Cui said. “They should also be under protection.”

According to the judge, since the launch of the Trademark Law in 2001, Beijing No 1 Intermediate’s Court has accepted a total of 8,780 trademark dispute cases, and 1,173 cases among them claimed their marks as well-known ones. However, only 109 trademarks are recognized as well-known ones.

"When determining whether a trademark is well-known, judges should use not only quantitative methods to measure its market share, but consider overall factors from a general consumer’s point of view,” the judge said.

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