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Enterprises accused over trademark
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-18 23:18

Three Chinese companies found themselves in court Tuesday, sued by a French business for alleged trademark infringement.

The case is once again shining the spotlight on trademark infringements and the importance of intellectual property rights.

The French company Bonneterie Cevenole SARL, owner of the disputed French Montagut brand, claimed 500,000 yuan (US$60,400) in damages and declined judicial conciliation Tuesday.

The Guangzhou Mengjiao Boy Trade Company and two other Chinese enterprises Tuesday denied any infringement of the famous French fashion brand during the first hearing at a Beijing court.

Bonneterie Cevenole SARL cited trademark infringement and unfair competition in its claim that Guangzhou Mengjiao Boy Clothing Company and the Beijing Sanli Store Real Estate Development Co. sold clothing bearing the Montagut logo.

The Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court made no judgment Tuesday.

The two Guangzhou-based defendants denied the charges, and stood by their right to produce clothing.

"Our company gave a permission to the Hong Kong Montagut Development Company to produce and sell clothing with our logo," Li Li, the lawyer representing the Mengjiao Boy Trade Company said.

Although named Montagut, the Hong Kong Montagut Development Company is not connected to the French trademark owner, sources said.

Li also said that the clothing provided as evidence was not produced by Mengjiao Boy.

"It is fake. We reserve the right to ascertain legal responsibility to those who violate our rights."

"We have not authorized any other company except for the Hong Kong Montagut Development Company to use our trademark," Li said.

The trademark of Mengjiao Boy was registered in 2001 by a Shanghai-based company and was later transferred to a French company.

Then the French company, which was set up by a local in East China's Zhejiang Province, gave trademark right to the Guangzhou Mengjiao Boy Trade Company.

The Hong Kong Montagut Development Company was eventually authorized by Mengjiao Boy to use its character and logo, said sources.

"It can fully prove that the defendants' infringement of our trademark right is long-standing and premeditated," said lawyer Dai Futang, who represents Bonneterie Cevenole SARL.

"The intentional use of similar logo and the so-called Montagut company by the defendants are enough to make consumers think it is French Montagut produced by the plaintiff," Dai said.

"Bonneterie Cevenole SARL began to use the trademark of Montagut and its logo in 1998 in China, three years earlier than Mengjiao Boy."

According to rules by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, earlier trademarks take precedence, he said.

Dai also emphasized that China and France are both members of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, meaning the trademark of Montagut should be protected across the country, just like in France.

The two accused Guangzhou-based companies asked the court to add the Hong Kong Montagut Development Company as a defendant but the plaintiff refused. "The so-called Montagut company in Hong Kong is expected to be withdrawn by authorities ahead of June 10," he said.

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