IP and Law

Poets and pig-feed

Hunan famous brand - Qu Yuan Brand Feed.
Yet another insulting trademark has the guardians of traditional culture up in arms. Qu Yuan, the famous ancient poet, is now a brand of pig-feed.

Qu Yuan's is already in use as a trademark on loads of stuff - alcohol, zongzi, tea - but this is different. According to professor Fan Ping of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Qu Yuan as a historical figure is well-known as a patriot, so to connect him to animal feed is unacceptable. Particularly galling is the fact that the company is based in Yueyang, Hunan, the location of the poet's suicide. Across the border in Qu Yuan's hometown of Digui, Hubei, the Qu Yuan Research Society sent a letter to the company requesting that it change its name to protect the reputation of this great historical personage.

Unfortunately for Qu Yuan and ancient culture, there are no legal barriers to the use of an ancient personality as a trademark. The company was granted the trademark in 1999 and has since been elevated to a provincial-level famous brand.

In a blog post that has been adapted into opinion pieces for several newspapers, civil servant Gao Fusheng lambasts the authorities for permitting such a travesty:

Thirdly, it's an embarrassment to current laws. The current Trademark Law permits personal names to be registered as trademarks, and has no rules that prohibit snatching the name of a famous person, which is how lots of famous cultural figures have been spoofed. But there is also considerable flexibility to the law here. Trademark Law has the following rule: "Trademarks may not have words or images that injure the prevailing social morality or have other negative influences." For this reason, approval depends on the trademark review office's subjective assessment of social feeling, and it ought to be cautious and respectful of historical figures. If it ignores morality and ethics, then this law is in need of change and improvement.

Fourthly, it brings shame on the "relevant departments." An employee of the trademark and advertising division of Yueyang's department of industry and commerce said that while Qu Yuan is indeed a historical and cultural figure, that is a fact of the past, so registering him as a trademark will not harm his personal image and does not violate the Trademark Law. Here, the trademark review department was probably aware that Qu Yuan, as an ancient person, has no image rights, but overlooked "social feelings" that would "injure the prevailing social morality or have other negative influences." And it was due to just this carelessness that "Qu Yuan" pig-feed was awarded the title "Hunan Province Famous Brand Product" in 2004. No wonder people online asked, if the law has no provision for stopping our ancestors from becoming pig-feed, then why don't you lead by example?

It's apparent that the business is using the "Qu Yuan" brand to sell its pig-feed in a short-sighted drive for profits. Although it's not illegal, it's offensive. In response to this deviant behavior that has drawn such an outcry, exposure and public condemnation is insufficient. Under these pressing circumstances, the law must be improved; protection and rational use and development of historical figures - a public resource - must be strengthened. This is not just for Qu Yuan; rather, it is a requirement for the development of a democratic legal system, and it is the underlying meaning of the construction of a harmonious society!

The company, Yueyang Quyuan Science & Technology Development Co., says it had no intention of smearing Qu Yuan's good name. The city of Yueyang has a development district named after the poet to commemorate his death, and the company merely took its name from its location. It currently has no plans to renounce its trademark.

Still, we'll have to side with those who want the trademark revoked - "Qu Yuan" would work much better as a brand of fish food.

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There are currently 1 Comments for Poets and pig-feed.

Comments on Poets and pig-feed

I'd imagine copyrights are especially unlikely to be protected for legendary figures who may have never actually existed, such as Qu Yuan. I agree though, fish food would be much more appropriate!

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