By: Jon'mel Davenport
For the first time in history, a Chinese court awarded $1.5 million dollars in damages and legal costs as a trademark infringement award. Three Chinese shoemakers infringed upon the American sportswear company New Balance. They sold shoes featuring the famous slanting “N” logo.
This victory was huge as China has a long history of not protecting foreign brands. Although the size of this ruling was small by international standards, this award gives hope to companies that their marks will be protected in the future.
New Balance has been an American sportswear staple since 1906. They were founded by a British immigrant in Boston, Massachusetts where there headquarters still remain. Beginning as a company focusing on arch supports, they have blossomed into a major sneaker manufacturer.
The three defendants produced shoes under the brand names, “New Boom” by Zheng Chaozhong, “New Barlun” by Xin Ping Heng Sporting Goods Limited Company, and “New Bunren” by Bo Si Da Ke Trading Limited. The court ruled that these shoemakers were successful in seizing market share from New Balance and greatly damaging the reputation of New Balance. Their usage of the mark greatly confused large numbers of consumers.
In China, trademarks are generally awarded to the first company to file for them. The companies need not have a reason for filing for the mark. After many years the Chinese government is finally solving the problem of privacy. In New Balances case, all of the infringing companies were trademarked.
In the past New Balance has lost many battles in trying to protect their mark in China. In April 2015 they were fined 16 million dollars after they lost a lawsuit to a man who had registered the trademark for the Chinese name of New Balance.
In April they were also awarded $500,000 after it was discovered that New Bunren also translates to New Balance in Chinese. Despite the past losses they’ve faced since 1995, this recent ruling has renewed
This new $1.5 million ruling stems from new Chinese Legislation. In 2014 a new trademark law passed that allowed for the minimum trademark infringement award to be 450,000. It is said that the recent uptick in technology being created in China has inspired this change in legislation. They are eager to have stronger laws in order to protect the accumulating value of their intellectual property industry. For