Hermes loses trademark battle in China

Hermes window, London

French luxury maison Hermes has lost a lawsuit against China’s Trademark Appeal Board over its refusal to cancel a trademark similar to the Chinese name of the French luxury producer. Hermes registered its English name and pattern on the Chinese mainland in 1977. However, it had not yet registered its Chinese name as a trademark, the Legal Evening News reported.

The company said Guangdong Province-based menswear maker, Dafeng Garment Factory, registered a trademark, similar to the Chinese name of Hermes, which could mislead Chinese buyers.

Hermes had appealed to the trademark board in 1997 over the trademark but the board approved the Chinese company’s registration in 2001, the unidentified court was told.

In 2009, Hermes again appealed to the board, saying its Chinese name enjoyed a high reputation around the world and demanding the board cancel the disputed trademark. However, Hermes’ application was rejected for a second time last May. Hermes told the court that its Chinese name should be protected as an unregistered trademark in China. It said the disputed trademark had imitated the Chinese name of Hermes and was gained through “deceptive means,” the newspaper said.

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 that Hermes had provided related to periods after the disputed trademark had been registered. The evidence was also mainly related to media reports about the Chinese name of Hermes in Hong Kong, and this did not prove it was well-known among consumers on the Chinese mainland.

Hermes could also not provide evidence that the trademark had been acquired illegally and ruled that its suit was lost. Hermes is not the only international brand having problems with trademarks in China. Hermes’ case could create a very dangereous precedent in a country which tops world producers of counterfeit luxury goods too.