Trademark fights are not new in China. In fact, Apple, New Balance and Sulbing are just a few amongst a number of international brands that have gone to court against Chinese businesses in the past.
Under Armour, a renowned American sportswear brand recently found itself in a year-long legal battle against a company based in Fujian, because of a trademark issue regarding their logo.
Tingfei Long Sporting Goods, Inc. is a growing sports shoe manufacturer in southeast China. The company recently debuted a line of athletic apparel and footwear under the name ‘Uncle Martian’ with an accompanying logo to boot. While the name itself may not ring any bells, the logo used to represent the collection had an uncanny resemblance to that of Under Armour’s, their biggest competitor.
Under Armour’s logo has a distinct and creative image of the letter ‘U’ intersecting a mirrored version of the character, which is then stylised to form the letter ‘A’. ‘Uncle Martian’ uses similar imagery, but the two characters do not touch. Those who would compare the two logos would agree on the similarity, specifically the font choice, the colour scheme and the positioning of the characters.
The use of the Laurel Wreath by ‘Uncle Martian’ was also reminiscent of Fred Perry’s logo. Fred Perry is a famous UK brand founded by Fred Perry, a triple Wimbledon champion. Since 1952, the brand has been a favourite amongst tennis players and British youth subcultures alike.
Beyond the Picture
Uncle Martian’s transliterated Chinese name, with a phonetic reading of ‘an-ke-ma-ding’, is also quite similar to the Chinese brand name of Under Armour, which is pronounced ‘an-de-ma’.
Tingfei Long heavily denied all allegations from the American brand. Huang Can Long, its General Manager, stated that the brand only aims to be known for ‘comfort, excellence and innovation’. In an interview with Shoes.net.cn, Huang Can Long claimed that he wanted nothing more than to create a high-profile brand with ‘high standards.’
Under Armour dismissed the statement of its legal opponent. In 2016, Under Armour’s spokesperson Diane Pelkey said that the brand was unamused about the infringement and was willing to pursue ‘all business and legal courses of action.’
Even on social media, people were not pleased with the creative decisions of Tingei Long.
‘How come you can’t even design a logo?’ asked a critic on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. ‘All you do is plagiarise – don’t you feel it’s disgusting?’
Another Chinese user said: ‘Don’t blame people when they say they look down upon domestic brands.’
Early in August 2017, the People’s Higher Court of Fujian Province finally ruled the case in favour of Under Armour. Tingfei Long Sports Goods, Inc. owes 2 million yuan in damages to the American footwear brand and was given an order to permanently halt the use of the logo.
Danny Awdeh, lead counsel for Under Armour, called the ruling ‘a very positive story for trademark owners.’
While there have been many disputes regarding trademark rights, the Under Armour case is a good example of how those fights can, indeed, be won.
Seek the Expertise of Professionals
For more questions about trademark applications and laws, contact Pinnacle TMS at pinnacletms.com.au to schedule a consultation with us. You can also send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +61 2 9520 4366.