Baijia Claims Brand Name Infringement

Baijia Claims Brand Name Infringement

2009/7/13

In the wake of the Chinese bean curd brand Wangzhihe bringing a German company to court to protect its brand, another well-known Chinese brand, Baijia, is suing the same company.

Sichuan Baijia Food Company, one of the major instant noodle manufacturers in China, has filed a lawsuit against OKAI Import Export GmbH with the Munich District Court in Germany.

The lawsuit asks the court to cancel OKAI's trademark application for the Baijia trademark and return the trademark to Baijia Food.

OKAI, a Germany-based department store, is reported to be a distributor for Chinese food manufacturers Baijia Food and Wangzhihe.

It was reported that OKAI had registered the trademark for Baijia in the European Union.

The Chinese company sent people to Germany to negotiate with OKAI after OKAI registered the "Baijia" trademark in November 2006.

Following failed negotiations, Baijia Food sent a series of letters to the company in 2008.

Wangzhihe had won its case against the same company in 2007. This year, Baijia Food filed its lawsuit against OKAI on May 20.

The Munich District Court in Germany has accepted the case, which is pending a ruling.

According to earlier reports by ChinaCSR.com, Baijia Food hired the same legal team that helped Wangzhihe win its trademark infringement case against OKAI.

Wang Hongqing, a lawyer with Beijing Dingjin Hongye Co, who is also a member of Baijia Food's legal team, said the likelihood of Baijia Food winning its case is high, especially since the company registered the trademark in Britain, which is an EU member, as early as 2004.

Like Wangzhihe, Baijia is a widely recognized brand in China, Wang said.

"In the past two years, Baijia tried to negotiate with the German company," Baijia Food Chairman Chen Zhaohui said in an earlier report. "The German company is one of our three agents in Germany, so we wanted to reach an agreement in a friendly way."

The case of an earlier dispute in Australia was cited.

In 2004, an Australian agent registered the "Baijia" trademark in Australia.

After "friendly" consultations, the Chinese company bought the trademark rights in Australia for $1, Chen said.

Baijia Food has applied for trademark registrations in 50 countries, according to the company.

The Wangzhihe and Baijia cases are not the first in which OKAI has been accused of trademark infringements.

OKAI reportedly preemptively registered trademarks for five other well-known Chinese brands, including Laoganma and Qiaqia.

Chen told the media earlier this summer that Baijia is considering joining forces with other Chinese companies to collectively claim their rights.

Like Baijia Food, Wangzhihe Food Group was registering its name in Germany when the Chinese company discovered its name already had been registered in Germany by OKAI.

After Wangzhihe and OKAI failed to reach an agreement, Wangzhihe filed a lawsuit in January 2007 against OKAI for trademark infringement.

A Munich, Germany, court ruled in Wangzhihe Food's favor in November 2007. An appeal has been filed by OKAI.

"This case tells us that Chinese companies should attach great importance to protecting their trademarks overseas since, in many countries, trademarks are registered on a first-come-first-served basis," said Li Jianchang, director of the trademark office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Li suggested that domestic companies become aware of trademark registration rules outside China.

Last year Chinese companies registered more than 2,000 trademarks in overseas markets, Li said.

Tian Lipu, commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), has said he would work with his counterparts in other countries in trademark protection efforts. .

Robert Li, a partner in the intellectual property rights (IPR) law firm Unitalen, said Chinese companies should be aware of the possibility that other companies might try to register their trademarks.

Li said companies should collect evidence of trademark infringements, including dates, descriptions and examples of violations.

                                                                                                      Source: China Daily




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