Can BlackBerry stop RedBerry in China?

Market awaits RIM's move

If Orange launched a push email service called OrangeBerry in the UK, BlackBerry's maker could shut it down. But China Unicom is launching RedBerry this month, and there may be little Research In Motion (RIM) can do.

"China Unicom's RedBerry brand not only incorporates people's familiarity with the BlackBerry brand name, but it also fully embodies the symbolic meanings of China Unicom's new red logo," the company said. It acknowledged that RIM's BlackBerry is the most successful application of push email technology.

Peter Bullock, a partner with the Hong Kong office of Pinsent Masons and a specialist in intellectual property matters, said the Canadian company's options are limited.

To have an obvious redress under Chinese trademark laws, Bullock explained that RIM would have to show that Chinese consumers are being duped into believing that the RedBerry is associated with RIM's BlackBerry.

"Onerous hurdles to RIM's entry to the Chinese market mean their notoriety is very low at present, which again hinders trademark enforcement," he said.

In the absence of trademark infringement, RIM would need to fall back on the less potent Anti-Unfair Competition Law. "This provides a catch-all to allow a measure of redress in the event of unfair marketing, sales or promotion. Unfortunately, it is a law distinctly lacking in teeth."

It is not known if RIM wants to attempt to block sales of the RedBerry device or simply compete with it on the market. It plans to start selling its BlackBerry service in China through China Mobile (Hong Kong), the world's larges mobile phone operator by the end of May.

David Wolf makes an interesting point on The China Stock Blog about keyboards. The BlackBerry accommodates a full QWERTY keyboard, but with an enormous range of characters in Chinese scripts, pen-based input devices have dominated the Chinese PDA market to date. A QWERTY keyboard can be used for Chinese character input – but that becomes much more difficult when limited to using only one's thumbs.

See: The China Stock Blog

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