An attempt by famed Chinese distiller Moutai to call itself "the national liquor" in a trademark has fired up many of its competitors.
During a three-month public review period on its request to trademark "Guojiu Moutai"－literally "national liquor Moutai"－the trademark office received a number of objections from other liquor giants as well as individuals and lawyers.
A full year after it passed first examination by the trademark application, Moutai has yet to receive a final decision from the trademark office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.
Zhong Lan'an, one of the opposing lawyers, told Securities Daily that in September, the trademark office said the case is still under consideration.
"The trademark office told me that they have received my notices and let me wait," he said. "The case does not seem to have made any progress."
But Moutai has been persistent. The company headquartered in Guizhou province has applied for the trademark nine times since 2001. Eight applications have been rejected.
Guizhou Deputy Governor Meng Qiliang expressed confusion to Chinese media about strong opposition to the trademark.
Meng said filing a trademark application is just normal corporate behavior and he did not understand why it received so much attention on the Internet.
Moutai is not the first to register a trademark reflecting State-level status, so Meng said he did not understand why its application triggered such strong opposition.
He also noted that Moutai is one of the few local companies with strong profit capabilities.
Guizhou, considered a remote province in Southwest China by many, needs the help of a strong brand, said the deputy governor. He added he does not understand why society could not give more support.
"Also, I do not understand why many people say Moutai is too expensive," said Meng.
Opponents of the trademark say the words "national liquor" represent countrywide credibility and can win more trust from consumers.
They contend the title is a public resource that should be shared by the whole industry rather than owned by any company or individual.
If approved, the trademark "will easily cause unfair competition", Zhong said.
The lawyer said if the application is approved by the trademark office, he and others will appeal to higher legal authorities.
But, whatever the final outcome, Moutai has gained a lot of publicity through its repeated trademark applications. It is a clever marketing strategy, industry insiders say.
Zhao Ping, an expert at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said "Moutai already has a great reputation in the market due to its long-term successful operations".
"It will still be one of China's most expensive and popular liquor brands even without the Guojiu Moutai trademark," she added.