Intellectual Property

"Tibet" in trademark suit

According to Chinese trademark law (I.10), geographical names cannot be registered as trademarks unless they have other connotations or are part of a larger unit*.

The Yuchao Company tried to register 藏 as a trademark for beer back in 2000, and was rejected on the grounds that 藏 is the abbreviation for 西藏, Tibet. It reapplied, and was again rejected.

So the company sued the trademark office, lost, and appealed. It argues that, while 藏 may be commonly used as an abbreviation for Tibet, it has other meanings as well, and the abbreviation has no legal standing unless the National People's Congress declares it as such.

According to a representative of the trademark committee quoted in an article in The Beijing News, this is the first time an applicant has sued after being rejected because of a geographic name.

Note: Older trademarks were grandfathered in, which is why Tsingtao, Harbin, and all those other locally-named beers can go after their imitators. Taiwan Beer has also faced geography-related problems in entering the mainland market, as this case study [English] shows.

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