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Display depicting Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang at a Nike store in downtown Shanghai. Liu serves as a brand ambassador for the global giant, yet it has been denied a trademark on his name. Jiang Zhenxiong / For China Daily
After its trademark application for the name of track star Liu Xiang was rejected, sportswear giant Nike has filed a civil suit against the Trademark Appeal Board of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Shanghai Evening Post reported.
At a hearing in Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court on Nov 27, attorneys for the appeal board said Nike's application was denied because a similar trademark using the Chinese characters for Liu Xiang Pai was registered by a Shanghai clothing company 26 years ago.
The trademark with three Chinese characters and an eagle image in its logo is still valid for five more years, they said.
If Nike's application was approved it would cause confusion and mislead customers because both trademarks would be used on clothes, attorneys for the appeal board told the court.
Lawyers for the sportswear giant disagreed, contending customers would not be misled due to the huge global reputations of the company and Liu, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist in the 110-meter hurdles.
Nike argued that Liu's name has great commercial value because it is a household name in China - and his right to merchandise his name should be protected by law.
Nike's lawyer told the court that even before Liu became famous, the company signed a contract with him that authorized commercial use of his name and image.
The company already has a series of approved trademarks such as liuxiang and LX, but lacks the rights to the Chinese characters for his name.
The appeal board responded that prior rights cannot be violated no matter how famous Liu became.
Liu Jianzhong of the Shanghai company said it was a coincidence that his father registered the Liu Xiang Pai trademark, because the hurdler Liu was only a 3-year-old boy at the time.
He said the trademark was derived from his family name Liu combined with Xiang based on the company's location in Yixiang village.
He said transfer of the trademark is possible, but would depend on the price.
To date, the company has not received any communication from Nike or Liu Xiang, he said.
(China Daily 12/05/2012 page17)