Lindt wins trademark battle in China

Pudong New Area People’s Court has ruled that German bakery Lind will have to change the signs and branding of their Shanghai cafes as they too closely resemble the Lindt trademark.
Lindt, who entered the Chinese market in the 1990s, filed a lawsuit against the German company for infringing upon their trademark after discovering in 2012 that the signs of their Shanghai cafe branches  were similar to their own brand.

Although the companies’ names are similar in English they have very different Chinese names. Since entering the Chinese market, Lind has been using the Chinese name “Lin de” whereas the Swiss company uses “Rui Shi Lian” in China. Lind used this in their defense along with the fact that they added “seit 1905” (since 1905) to their signs and since the Swiss company was established in 1845 that customers would not confuse the two brands.

However, the court ruled in favour of Lindt on the grounds that the trademarks were too similar and since the Swiss company had been in the country for longer, they have priority over any trademark claims. As well as having to change their branding in China, the German bakery will also have to pay 120,000 yuan (US$18,321) to Lindt in the form of compensation for unknowingly infringing upon their trademark.

Although both companies are equally well established outside of China and own trademarks for their different brands, in China it is generally the company that first uses the brand name in the country that owns the rights to it, even if the names aren’t identical.

Furthermore, even if the second brand to enter the Chinese market was created before the first brand, they would not get priority. This was the situation with the Apple IPhone case. Apple lost a trademark dispute for exclusive use of the brand ‘IPhone’ and a chinese leather goods company has been allowed to continue making phone cases and handbags imprinted with the IPhone name.

In order to avoid disputes such as these, businesses should plan their Trademark portfolios based on long term business projects rather than their current activity in order to avoid future conflicts. In addition, companies should do their research and complete a comprehensive search into their chosen marketplace before launching a brand to ensure that they will not infringe upon another company’s existing brand.

For advice and more information on searching, acquiring, registering and enforcing Trademarks please visit our website,
Our unique database of trademarks for sale or license could save you time and help protect your brand.

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