Auto market is witnessing hot competition, such as trademark disputes involving with “捷跑JIEPAO” and “捷豹JIEBAO,” “BMW” and “BYD.” These phenomena reflect in another sense that enterprises’ awareness on trademark protection has been constantly increased and the important role played by trademark is greatly strengthened.
Trademark war represents as an important strategy in competition. In 2010, two domestic automobile manufacturers Jianghuai and Dayun met ahead-on confrontation on their trademark issues.
In March, Anhui Jianghuai Automotive Co. Ltd. received from Guangzhou Red Sun Auto Parts Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Dayun’s manufacturer) a cease and desist letter, alleging that JAC trademark constitutes an infringement upon Dayun trademark, and requiring JAC company cease using it. In order to maintain its legal rights and continue smooth production and sales, JAC company immediately filed suit for a declaratory judgment. The focus of the case falls on the similarity of the two trademarks. JAC trademark represents as an oval surrounding an irregular five pointed star; Dayun trademark appears as a solid five-pointed star embedded in a round circle.
As JAC’s attorney from Beijing Unitalen Attorneys at Law, Jing Can thought that whether the trademark used by JAC is similar to Dayun trademark would be the core of the case. First, the two trademarks differ in composition, color and factor combination. Second, JAC company spent a great amount on the advertising and publicity of its trademark, which thus help with its popularity and reputation. Last but not least, consumers pay so much attention on different car brands that they will not be misled.
After the first instance of the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court and the second instance of the Anhui High People’s Court, Anhui High People’s Court made a final decision in early November, maintaining the original judgment and ruling that there was no infringement involved with JAC trademark.
The particularity of the case exists in that automobiles differing from general products belong to bulk commodities. Although in recent years more and more families own automobiles, buying a car is still a big deal and is different from buying vegetables. Therefore, consumers will spend more time on comparing different brands, consulting prices, understanding the quality and the after sales service. There is hardly chance in buying a mistaken car because of trademark similarity. As is known to all, there are some seemingly likeness between the trademarks of Honda and Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Sany, Bingley and Chery Ruiqi. However, no confusion arises among consumers. For the case involved, JAC didn’t ignore the lawyer’s letter from Dayun and gave it a high priority. Then JAC immediately filed a suit for a declaratory judgment, which helped JAC obtain favorable conditions and finally win the case. As JAC’s attorney, Jing Can reminds us that in the initial process of producing and designing, apart from aesthetic consideration and dissemination viewpoint, it’s even more important to consider whether the trademark can be protected. Sufficient preparation for trademark application will play an important role in establishing a corporate brand image and a long-time development strategy.