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Weekly China Trademark News Updates
November 17, 2021
1. MUJI prevailed against Wuyinliangpin in a trademark infringement lawsuit
Based on its “Wuyinliangpin (MUJI in Chinese)” registered trademark with registration number 4471268 in Class 20 for “pillow” related goods (“Cited Mark”), MUJI sued Beijing Wuyinliangpin Investment Co. Ltd. (“Wuyinliangpin”) for using the Disputed Mark on its u-shaped pillow product without authorization and infringed upon MUJI’s trademark rights. Wuyinliangpin defended by citing its licensed trademark “Wuyinliangpin” with registration numbers 1561046 and 74942391 in Class 24 for “fabrics; pillowcase, duvet.”
|Disputed Mark||Cited Mark|
The court found that the said goods in Class 20 and Class 24 largely overlapped in function, use, and target consumer. Given that both parties have its registered or licensed trademarks, both parties should use its trademarks within the scope of its approved goods. The alleged infringing products in this case were labeled as “u-shaped pillowcase” or “neck pillowcase,” but the products photo showed “u-shaped pillow with filler.” The invoice showed the product name as “textile product*neck cushion.” Thus, the alleged infringing product was in fact a neck pillow product, which falls into the same product category as the Cited Mark’s approved goods “pillow.” Meanwhile, Wuyinliangpin prominently used its licensed mark “Wuyinliangpin” on the alleged infringing product’s hangtag, packaging, washing labels. Wuyinliangpin’s licensed mark and MUJI’s registered trademark had identical composition, pronunciation, and meaning, and the only differences were the use of simplified and traditional Chinese. The two marks were similar marks. Accordingly, the first instance’s decision against Wuyinliangpin was affirmed.
2. New Balance prevailed again in the second instance court winning RMB18 million in damages
New Balance Athletics, Inc and New Balance Trading (China) Co., Ltd. (together as “New Balance”) sued Putian Shengfengsheng Shoes Co., Ltd. (“Shengfengsheng”), Putian Wobaili Trading Co., Ltd. (Wobaili”), Wang Jinbiao, Gusu District Meibailu Shoe Store (“Meibailu”) for infringing its registered trademark the “N” logo with registration number 5942394 on Class 25 for “sneakers” (“Cited Mark”) in Suzhou Intermediate Court. The defendants cited its registered trademark “N & design” with registration number 10214341 (“Disputed Mark”).
|Disputed Mark||Cited Mark|
The court found that New Balance is the registrant of the Cited Mark and New Balance is the authorized party in China, which gave New Balance the exclusive right to use the trademark and its rights should be protected under the law. The alleged infringing product are sneakers, which prominently used the N logo on two sides of the shoe and significantly weakened the arrow design appeared at the lower portion of the Disputed Mark. When paying ordinary attention, consumers could recognize the Disputed Mark as used appeared as an “N” logo in bold font, which was highly similar to the Cited Mark. Considering New Balance have been selling sneakers with the N logo for many years through continuous promotion and publicity, its N logo has obtained relatively high fame. Thus, the Disputed Mark was likely to cause confusion and mistake the public regarding the source of the goods of the two marks. The evidence also proves that there were actual confusions on the market. Therefore, the Disputed Mark constituted as an infringement on the Cited Mark. Meanwhile, the New Balance sneakers have been using the N logo on two sides of the shoes as its decoration for a fairly long time. With extensive publications, the N logo can be seen as a special decoration of New Balance’s sneakers. Wobaili and Shengfengsheng, as competitors in the industry, knowing the popularity of New Balance sneakers and the distinctiveness of using the N logo on both sides of the shoes, they still used the unique decoration of well-known goods without authorization. Their actions showed subjectively malicious to free-riding others fame, and objectively crouching a large number of New Balance sneakers market share, which violated the good faith principle and amounted to unfair competition. Comprehensively considering the circumstances of the case, the first instance court ruled that the three defendants should compensate New Balance for economic losses and reasonable expenses of RMB18 million. The second instance court upheld the judgment of the first instance court.
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