Trade mark squatters have long been a hindrance to foreign companies wishing to enter the Chinese market.
Familiar and savvy with China’s complex trade mark laws, trade mark squatters target valuable foreign brands and register them as trade marks in China. Thus, meaning when international companies want to launch their business in China, they are often left with little choice but to expend huge sums of money to buy back the trade mark, rebrand their business or initiate legal action for the right to use their brand by attempting to establish non-use, which can be problematic, lengthy and costly.
China adopts a first- to-file trade mark system and under Chinese rules the first to file a mark generally becomes its owner if their application is successful- this is irrespective of whether they have used the mark in the past.
At least three very well-known law firms have fallen prey to trade mark squatters. Firms including Norton Rose Fulbright, Osborne Clarke and Squire Patton Boggs, have been targeted.
The domain name squirepattonboggs.net and the trade mark for its name are registered to a company known as Qinhuangdao Hongshun Technology Development. The same company also owns trade marks for the names Norton Rose Fulbright and Osborne Clarke.
A spokesperson for Norton Rose Fulbright commented that the firm had taken action to protect its brand and reputation and that the disputes had been successfully resolved.
A spokesperson for Squire Patton Boggs commented that it had been aware of the Chinese entity and its efforts to use its and other law firms’, names. They added, “We will continue to take all necessary measures to protect our brand in China and minimise any unlikely confusion this illegitimate activity could cause in that market”.