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Top court bans use of famous names as trademarks

By ZHANG YI | | Updated: 2017-01-12 12:05

China's top court has issued a legal interpretation regarding trademark lawsuits in an effort to protect the names of public figures and geographical locations, among others.

The Supreme People's Court said in the document that the names of politicians, celebrities, religious leaders and other public figures cannot be registered as trademarks by other entities.

It specified the circumstances in which a trademark could be approved, noting that a major element for consideration in any ruling should be whether a "negative effect" on public interest and social order would be caused.

To better inform courts at all levels across the country what could be regarded as causing a "negative effect", the court highlighted five cases from recent years to be used as precedents for future rulings.

Among them is the case of US basketball star Michael Jordan, who won his four-year legal battle over the use of his name on shoes and sportswear marketed by a Chinese firm.

Previously, there were also media reports about companies applying to register trademarks such as "007", "James Bond", "Harry Potter" and "Kung Fu Panda".

Song Xiaoming, chief judge of the Supreme People's Court intellectual property rights tribunal, said trademark cases had increased significantly in recent years.

In Beijing alone, 7,951 cases were filed in the No 1 Intermediate People's Court in 2014, up from 2,161 the year before.

The legal interpretation, which was three years in the making, underscored the principle of good faith in trademark applications and aimed to protect priority rights, Song said.

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