Luxury brand Hermes loses trademark lawsuit, February 27, 2012

A clerk walks out of a Hermes store. [File photo]

A clerk walks out of a Hermes store. [File photo]

French luxury Group Hermes has lost its trademark lawsuit over its appeal to China's Trademark Appeal Board to cancel a trademark similar to its Chinese name, the Legal Evening News reported over the weekend.

Hermes has registered its English name and pattern in China in 1977. However, it never registered its Chinese name as a trademark.

In 1995, Guangdong-based clothing company Dafeng Garment Factory applied to the trademark board to register the trademark "爱玛仕" for clothing products. The application later passed the board's preliminary review and was announced to the public.

Hermes appealed to the trademark board in 1997 over the trademark "爱玛仕", saying that it's quite similar to the Chinese name of Hermes "爱马仕". The two names share the same Chinese pinyin spelling: Ai Ma Shi.

However, the trademark board rejected Hermes' appeal and approved the Chinese company's registration in 2001.

In 2009, Hermes once again appealed to the board, saying its Chinese name enjoyed a high reputation around the world and asking the board to cancel the disputed trademark. However, Hermes' application was rejected for a second time in May last year.

Hermes claims that its Chinese name should be protected as an unregistered well-known trademark in China. It said the disputed trademark was an imitation of its Chinese name and was obtained through "deceptive means,", according to the newspaper report.

Hermes asked the court to cancel the board's ruling but the board said it had approved registration of the disputed trademark through legal procedures.

The clothing company, which was also represented, agreed with the board, the court was told.

The court said that most of the evidence presented by Hermes happened after the disputed trademark had been registered. Also, the evidence was mainly media reports about the Chinese name of Hermes in Hong Kong, which fails to prove Hermes was well-known among consumers on the Chinese mainland. Besides, Hermes also failed to provide evidence showing the disputed trademark had been acquired illegally and therefore the court ruled against the French luxury brand.

Several other international corporations are also involved in trademark disputes in China recently. Apple, producer of the iPad tablet computer, is involved in a legal dispute over the use of the iPad name on the Chinese mainland. Meanwhile, NBA legend Michael Jordan has filed a lawsuit against a Chinese sportswear producer, Qiaodan Sports Co. Ltd, which has registered and used brand the same as Jordan's Chinese name.