Tuesday, February 28, 2012

China sees rise in trademark, domain name speculations

There have been several high profile trademark disputes in China recently - over the use of famous names like iPad, Michael Jordan and Jeremy Lin.

It also reveals an increasing trend in speculative investments - on trademarks.

Apple's dispute over the use of the iPad name in China has started a speculative wave of trademark registrations.

The website of China's Industry and Commerce Department shows the names aPad, bPad, all the way to zPad, registered as trademarks.

And even though the social networking site Facebook is blocked in China, the Chinese are still betting on the potential value of the brand.

Speculators try to make a quick buck by being among the first to register a famous logo, or something that looks similar to it... then, sell it later at a much higher price.

Last year, one businessman registered the name, Jeremy Lin Shu Hao, for under US$900.
Now, the name of the up and coming NBA star is worth US$16 million, according to Forbes magazine.
Internet domain names such as linshuhao.com are already taken.

And there's notice on the webpage claiming the domain name is for sale.
Experts say speculation on trademark and domain names is increasing.

Wang Jun, Researcher at Fudan University Centre for Intellectual Property Study, said: "In the course of economic transformation, the people are more focused on economic success. The mentality is to take a short cut. He will usually neglect the legitimacy of the process to go after quick profits."

And taking such short cuts can lead to trouble.

American basketball star Michael Jordon has filed a lawsuit against a Chinese company, saying it was not authorised to use his Chinese name on their sports apparel. Some register trademarks to ride on the popularity of existing names.

A Chinese businessman filed an application to call the torchlights he manufactures iPhone. He argues that out of the 45 categories in China, Apple only registered the iPhone trademark in some 20 categories, which do not include lighting equipment. The dispute is still ongoing but there is a possibility that iPhone-brand torchlights, shampoos, furniture and even coffee and tea may be marketed in China.

Apple is able to take legal action, because the iPhone name is a well-known trademark.

Wang Jun added: "Special protection for well-known trademarks is a global practice. Apple enjoys a high reputation in China. If it causes a confusion amongst consumers, causing a damage in their reputation, the company can raise opposition."

Experts advise against speculating on trademarks. They say too many people are playing the game and, at the end of the day, few will be able to sell at a higher price.

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