The face of China's first astronaut has been registered as a trademark after wall calendars and playing cards bearing his image were found in cities across the country, including Shanghai.
The announcement came on Monday from the Beijing Space Medical Engineering Institute, of which astronaut Yang Liwei is a member.
The institute said it has applied to the Trademark Administration under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. The institute wants to register Yang's portrait and signature as trademarks in order to protect his image from "being tarnished."
They also want to trademark the Chinese characters and Pinyin spelling of his name and Yang's picture at the moment he stepped out of the returned module of the Shenzhou V spaceship on October 16, according to the announcement.
An inspection yesterday by a Shanghai Daily reporter of two busy small-commodity markets in the city, one on Fuyou Road and the other on Xiangyang Road, found no such products on sale.
"Why should we sell Yang Liwei's calendar, when the other stars' calendars haven't been sold out yet," a salesperson said. "Maybe we'll sell Yang's next year."
But even if such a product is found, the institute won't be able to sue manufacturers for trademark violation anytime soon, according to local experts.
"Since it usually takes one-and-a-half years to process the approval of a trademark registration, the institute doesn't own the trademark right now," explained Chen Zuyao, a trademark official with the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau.
Only after the trademark is approved can bureau officials confiscate goods and fine the sellers, he added.
However, Yang can act himself to protect his rights if he chooses to.
"Such activity surely violates Yang's rights to his image. He can protect his rights by suing manufacturers and sellers," said Zhao Jing, an official with the Shanghai Copyright Bureau.
On October 15, Yang Liwei, the 38-year-old astronaut, entered orbit aboard the Shenzhou V spacecraft from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and landed safely as planned in North China the next day, after orbiting the Earth 14 times during the 21-- hour mission.
The mission, the biggest achievement in the history of China's space program, boosted the country into some impressive company.
Prior to Yang's orbit, only the Soviet Union and the United States had successfully launched a man into orbit. China is now said to be working on a series of launches leading to a landing on the moon.
(eastday.com December 10, 2003)