American and Chinese firms keep on battling in court for trademarks, and the Chinese parties usually win the cases. But not this time; a U.S. company has finally walked away with a win.
Near the end of last month, the Beijing Higher People’s Court ruled in favor of U.S. social media mammoth Facebook as it took a Chinese beverage company to court for the “face book” trademark.
According to Zhujiang Beverage, the company that sells porridge and milk-flavored drinks has registered its “face book,” or 脸书, (lian shu) trademark back in 2011.
In 2014, the company was confronted by Facebook, but the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, China’s trademark authority, gave them the power to keep using it.
But now, the Beijing court has posted the verdict on its verified Weibo account (the Chinese WhatsApp equivalent), saying that the trademark authority’s approval had been revoked. Even though the decision was issued in April, the news only got wider attention in recent days.
Liu Hongqun, the marketing manager of Zhujiang Beverage, explained that “lian shu is something very Chinese,” and that it’s used in traditional operas. He is referring to the beautiful masks – called “face books” in China – used by actors when they portray historical characters in traditional Chinese opera.
The explanation was obviously not enough for Facebook, so the company went back and forth with the trademark authority before eventually got the matter in front of the Beijing court.
After Facebook was favored in the original lawsuit, Zhujiang appealed; however, according to the most recent ruling, the beverage company lost again.
One of Mr. Liu’s arguments was that Facebook is not as popular in China as it is around the world, mainly because the social network has been blocked in China since 2009.
However, Facebook’s win is a bright spot for U.S. companies, which have been under the trademark gun as of late.
Apple had its own case against a Chinese handbag manufacturer that uses the brand “IPHONE” on its products. In late March of this year, a Beijing court ruled the company could keep on using it, which was a setback to Apple Inc.’s iPhone trademark.
According to the court, Apple failed to show evidence of the brand being famous in China before the leather accessory company registered its trademark in 2007; Apple first registered its iPhone trademark in the U.S. in 2002.
Image Source: QZ