Honda, Lifan locked in trademark disagreement
The Japanese Honda Motor Co is again embroiled over a trademark dispute with a major Chinese motorcycle manufacturer.
Honda claims Chongqing Lifan Industry (Group) Co Ltd, based in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, uses "SOR" on its products, which looks very similar to its "SCR," especially the way it is written.
The Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court Thursday heard the case filed by Honda and its branch company in Guangzhou, in Guangdong Province in the nation's south.
In its indictment, Honda said that in 1999 it won approval from the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce to register SCR as its trademark.
Xin Zhesheng, for the plaintiff, said: "Honda only formally endorsed its Guangzhou company to use SCR."
In court Thursday, Honda demanded compensation of more than 17 million yuan (US$2 million) as well as more than 180,000 yuan (US$21,800) in legal fees, but it withdrew a request for a public apology. Lifan insists the compensation claim is groundless.
Chongqing Lifan, established in 1992, is the largest private motorcycle manufacturer in China.
According to the plaintiff, it bought two of the same scooters on April 21, 2001 after Shanghai Wen'an Motorcycle Co was found selling motors produced by Lifan.
Later, Honda disassembled one of the scooters for examination, and left the other intact.
"Two notaries were with us and they witnessed each step of the process," Xin said.
Two similar scooters bearing the SOR mark were brought to court as evidence.
Honda puts the SCR symbol on each side of its motor at the back, Xin said.
"We found that Lifan puts its SOR symbol, which was very similar with our SCR, in the same place on its products," he said.
Lifan denies the accusation, saying it has never used SOR on its products.
"Moreover, on Lifan's products and brochures, it uses the word 'Lifan,' which could not create any misunderstanding."
Shanghai Wen'an was absent from the hearing. Honda started to send letters to the two defendants at the start of 2002.
"The feedback the plaintiff got from Lifan was that it had stopped using SOR and was willing to talk,'' Xin alleged.
Last year, the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court heard a case filed by Honda against Lifan. In that case, Honda said Lifan used "Hongda" on its products, which Honda claims is very similar to Honda. The case is still pending.
It is not know when a result in the latest case will be available.