Apple lost a copyright challenge in China when a local leather goods company that sells a brand of iPhone accessories called IPHONE was able to keep it. While this sends a cautionary message to brands entering the country there is more than the obvious to be learned.
The obvious: Clearly when entering China you must have your trademarks in order – that is both your native English mark and your Mandarin mark. And if there is a natural transliteration of your name, that too should be protected. Example: Michael Jordan was stung by a local Chinese company that called itself Qiaodan.
On the positive side, Chinese consumers have become quite savvy about authenticity. They want the real thing and quickly see through the pretender.
“The good news is that intellectual property protection is getting much better from a legal standpoint and the courts in China usually rule the right way now. The big problem is actually enforcement and we’ll see that improve as the legal system becomes more robust. Most of the intellectual property claims being made in Chinese courts now are coming from Chinese firms trying to protect their own intellectual property and this is going to go a long way toward cleaning up the market, it will just take time,” said Benjamin Cavender, principal at China Market Research Group.
Cavender adds, “I think fears over having trademarks or intellectual property ripped off are probably overblown,” Source: WWD, Fairchild Fashion Media.