IP and Law

Foreign involvement in Chinese media: that's magazines trademark court case

Mark Kitto, founder of the popular that's series of English magazines, was ousted last year by his state-owned partners, the China Intercontinental Press (CIP). He sued them for a trademark issue, and the case was heard last week Friday in the Beijing Number One Middle Court.

The Daily Telegraph has published a story summarizing the affair: Briton fights for rights to Chinese magazine titles.

Kitto clarified the nature of the court case to Danwei:

"This was only an appeal to get the Trademark Adjudication Bureau to rescind their decision to cancel my company's rights to the "that's" trademark, as requested by CIP. If we get the rights back, I then have to sue CIP for infringement and stop them using my trademark, unless we come to an arrangement.

I already tried a licence agreement back in 2004, they played along, all the while secretly preparing their case to get the Trademark Adjudication Bureau to cancel my rights. Will they play fair the next time, if there is one? Maybe they will just change the English name of the magazines, as they threatened to just before we started the negotiations for that dummy licence agreement in 2004.

Whatever happens, I fought hard to build "that's" magazines for seven years. This is just another battle. Not as much fun as creating magazines mind."

Representatives of CIP could not be reached for comment. Michael Wester, the General Manager of True Run Media, the company that produces That's Beijing (and an employee since the magazine's inception in October 2001) had this to say to Danwei:

"I can tell you from my perspective (which is essentially stuck in the middle of a situation the roots of which go beyond my involvement in the company) that my interests lie in protecting the brand, and hope to see the trademark issue resolved ASAP so that both sides -- Mark and the CIP -- can be happy with the continued success of That's Beijing into the future."

* Disclosure: Your correspondent is a friend of Kitto, helped launch that's Beijing, and is an occasional contributor to True Run Media's products.

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