New Balance win may be a sign of change in China

If there is one thing that is more valuable than money to an emerging startup, it is the exclusivity of its brand. This is why trademarks are so important in the marketplace. A trademark essentially establishes a secure way to maintain protections against companies who seek to copy a popular mark that has set a company apart from its competitors.

Exclusivity with a mark is critical when selling a product internationally. In China, U.S. companies have routinely lost trademark infringement cases. Last year, Apple lost a suit against a company using its “iPhone” trademark. Drug maker Pfizer also lost multiple cases against companies using its Viagra trademark. The same occurred with Michael Jordan’s brand. 

The problem appears that under Chinese law, trademark is awarded to whoever files first, regardless of who initially created a particular mark. But thanks to a recent Chinese court decision, this may change.

New Balance recently won a decision where three Chinese companies were found to have infringed upon the American shoemaker’s distinctive “N” logo. Combined, the three companies will be ordered to pay $1.5 million for their infringement. While this may not seem like a monumental sum under U.S. standards, it is a sign that increasing pressure on the Chinese government to strengthen its intellectual property laws is taking effect. It also suggests a change in how American companies may be treated in one of the world’s largest markets.

If you have questions about how to protect your trademark in foreign markets, an experienced business law attorney can advise you. 

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