Just like Liu Xiang at the 2012 London Olympics, Nike fails to clear the first hurdle in registering his name as a trademark in China. (Photo/Xinhua)
Nike's latest attempt to obtain trademark protection in China for the name of champion hurdler Liu Xiang has failed again, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.
A Beijing court recently dismissed Nike's case against China's Trademark Review and Adjudication Board for denying the sporting giant's application to register Liu's name as a trademark. The case was an appeal of the board's earlier affirmation of the original ruling by the China Trademark Office, which found that the mark was too similar to "Liu Xiang Pai," an existing trademark registered by a Shanghai clothing company back in July 1986 — when the hurdler was just three years old.
The first two Chinese characters of the registered mark are identical to Liu's name, while the third, "Pai", can be interpreted to mean "brand." A spokesperson from the Shanghai company said it was a pure coincidence that his father registered the trademark, which was a combination of his surname Liu and Yixiang, the village where the company was founded.
China's trademark laws operate on a first-to-file basis, which does not protect unregistered marks and gives preference to whoever registers the mark first, regardless of whether the mark is actually used for business purposes.
Lawyers for the adjudication board argued that if Nike's application were approved it would cause confusion and mislead customers because both marks would be used on clothing goods. Nike, which had first tried to register the mark in 2006, contended that customers would not be misled due to the company's global reputation and the fact that Liu is a household name in China.
The court eventually sided with the board, meaning that Nike will likely have to buy the mark off the Shanghai company or pay it to deregister the mark. How much Nike is willing to spend, however, will depend on whether Liu, who won the 110-meter gold medal in Athens in 2004, can make a comeback after spectacularly crashing out of the last two Olympics with injuries.
Liu Xiang 劉翔
Liu Xiang Pai 劉翔牌