Senior gov't official defends suit in court
A trademark bureau vice-director became the first ever senior official to personally defend an administrative lawsuit in court.
Fan Hanyun, executive vice-director of the Trademark Bureau under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, was present at court on Friday after the administration was taken to the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court. An Inner Mongolia-based food company claimed Fan's administration violated its monopoly right over trademark usage.
In the past, when being accused by residents or enterprises, departments of the central government would appoint an ordinary staff member and a lawyer to be present at the court hearing, said Li Xinsheng, vice-president of the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court.
Lawyers representing the administration were also in court on Friday.
Fan's appearance, follows an announcement by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce that senior officials will respond to prosecution at court for administrative lawsuits. Administrative lawsuits are lawsuits against government departments by citizens or enterprises for decisions or actions they have taken.
No judgment was passed on Friday after the first hearing.
The plaintiff, the Inner Mongolia Jinsui Food Company asked the court to withdraw a decision by Fan's administration and another defendant in the case, the State Grain Administration.
The two administrations issued notices last year saying that although the Jinsui Company's trademark of Snowflake is protected by law, the name of "Snowflake Flour" is recognized as a common kind of flour and the company has no right to forbid other food companies from using that specific wording.
"To have Snowflake Flour as a common name for a kind of flour was the common understanding reached by the State Grain Administration and the National Grain Association," Fan said.
Furthermore, Fan pointed out that it is due to the improper behaviour of the Jinsui Company that the name of "Snowflake Flour" has become a common monicker for high quality flour in the past decade.
"The trademark of snowflake was registered by an Anhui-based company in 1985. But according to statistics provided by the National Grain Association, many enterprises began to produce and sell flour called Snowflake Flour in 1994," he said.
Fan emphasized that the original owner of the trademark failed to take effective measures to protect the monopoly right of the snowflake trademark.
"The Jinsui Company, who got the trademark from original Anhui-based owner of the trademark in 2002, should also take the unfavourable result," Fan said.
But Wang Zhan, the lawyer for the Jinsui Company, said the number of companies using the name of Snowflake Flour is only a small proportion of high-quality flour producers.
"It is absolutely a violation of the trademark rights of Snowflake," he said on Friday.
According to sources with the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's court, among the 48 departments of the central government within the ruling area of the court, 63 per cent have had to deal with administrative lawsuits.
Last year, the court dealt with more than 470 trademark and patent administrative lawsuits. Some 40 per cent were foreign-related cases, said the court's vice-president Li Xinsheng.
He believed that the presence of senior governmental officials at court will effectively promote the supervision of court over the government.
Fan also said Friday that he will be more cautious in performing administrative duties in the future and is ready to be present at court as defendant if needed.