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Yu Weiping's trademark was contested by the well-known German brand Zwilling, whose logo is pictured in the background. Wang Bing / for China Daily
When Yu Weiping received a telephone call on Sept 20 from his company's trademark agent telling him the trademark had been approved by State Administration for Industry and Commerce, he knew he had become the victor in a transnational trademark battle.
He said the trademark certificate, though nearly two years overdue, was like a medal to him - the triumph of a small Chinese company over an international giant.
The founder and general manager of Ju Wang Sports Culture Co Ltd in Zibo city, Shandong province, Yu received a statement of protest from the SAIC trademark office in 2010 noting German kitchenware maker Zwilling J. A. Henckels AG contested his application.
Founded in 1731, Zwilling is well known for its stainless steel products. The world "zwilling" in German means twin, and its iconic twin logo is one of Germany's oldest trademarks. It is regarded as a symbol of the nation's advanced manufacturing industry.
The German company claimed Ju Wang "designed a trademark with an identical image, not accidentally, but deliberately copying the well-known and influential trademark of Zwilling".
"I felt very much afraid on receiving the protest," said Yu. "Zwilling asked for a ban on our trademark in the first place, so coming next must be a demand for a large amount of compensation."
"As a Fortune 500 company, they are not only financially powerful, but also experienced in dealing with such disputes. We were afraid to lose the case and go bankrupt," he said.
But Yu decided to take on the challenge after all. "Our trademark is definitely not a copy of another's design, but a cultural heritage from our ancestors."
Yu said the trademark for his sports-themed stationery and porcelain company is based on a seal pattern in ancient China that dates back some 2,000 years.
When Yu visited Beijing in 2007, he saw the seal exhibited at the Imperial Palace as a relic of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220). It has the pattern of two athletes playing cuju.
Cuju is believed to be the archetype of the modern game of football. Linzi, which is a district of Zibo today, has been recognized by International Federation of Football Association as the birthplace of football.
Yu used the pattern as his company's new trademark the following year.
"The game of cuju is one of the symbols of ancient Chinese culture and part of Chinese people's contribution to the world culture," Yu said in the reply to the protest. "The seal is also part of traditional Chinese culture. The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games emblem also used the element."
The SAIC trademark office concluded the protest procedure on May 15 and granted the trademark to Yu. This time Zwilling did not file an objection.
"We should learn from Zwilling in terms of product quality and brand building, but we will never yield in the fight for our trademark," said Yu.
(China Daily 11/07/2012 page11)