Leaving their mark


Relations between Beijing and Washington have darkened because of the trade war. Yet the sour mood has not affected the business interests of Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka in China. According to CNN, she has been granted approval for 16 trademarks in her name for consumer goods like shoes and handbags.

Ivanka’s success is a rare one. Foreign brands have typically struggled to protect their intellectual property rights, particularly when it comes to the Chinese versions of their brand names. Former NBA superstar Michael Jordan and sportswear firm New Balance, for example, have both been mired in legal tussles with firms that operate under their Chinese identifiers.

Added to the list recently was Japanese retail chain Muji. Its Chinese name wuyinliangpin, ironically meaning “good products with no trademark”, is one of the best known Japanese brands in China. The problem is that local firm Beijing Miantian registered the wuyinliangpin characters almost 15 years ago, long before Muji opened its first store in the country.

Miantian now sells household goods with a minimalist style similar to Muji and a court ruling in Beijing late last month ruled in favour of the local firm, meaning that Muji can no longer identify itself under the Chinese characters of its Japanese brand name (unless it buys Miantian, of course).

Some of the Chinese media outlets were surprised to see Muji losing out, although there have been plenty of other cases in which international firms have been too slow to protect their trademarks from local applicants. Over in Taipei newspapers took a different view, speculating that Muji did itself no favours this year by listing Taiwan as a country in its company literature…

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.