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Handbags at dawn: Hermes loses Chinese trademark battle

Fashion giant not impressed with Trademark Appeal Board

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Sacré bleu! Apple isn’t the only big name brand facing a trademark KO in China at the moment, after French fashion giant Hermes lost a key legal battle with China’s Trademark Appeal Board.

Shanghai Daily reported that although the purveyor of luxury goods has had its English language name registered since as far back as 1977 in China, it had failed to do the same for its Simplified Chinese trademark.

Unfortunately for Hermes, Guangdong-based fashion outlet Dafeng Garment Factory registered a trademark, 爱玛仕, which was dangerously similar to the Chinese name of Hermes, 爱马仕 (differing by just one stroke on the character "ma").

Despite appealing to the trademark board in 1997, it was the Guangdong company which won the right to brand itself with the pinyin moniker and its registration was formally completed in 2001, the report said.

Hermes reportedly appealed again to the board in 2009 that given its fame across the planet it should be allowed to have the trademark, but was again denied.

Now it has lost its battle to have the board’s decision scrapped after the court ruled that Hermes wasn’t necessarily a well-known brand in mainland China and that it couldn’t be proved that the trademark was obtained by Dafeng by “deceptive means”.

The case comes as Apple desperately tries to convince the authorities in the People’s Republic that it is the rightful owner of the IPAD trademark in the country. It is due in court on Wednesday to appeal the decision of a Shenzhen court in December 2011 which ruled that failed monitor biz Proview is the owner of the trademark.

In the meantime, Proview has already persuaded the authorities in several cities in the country to ban the sale of iPad devices and even filed a suit in the US alleging it is Apple and not itself that is the deceiver in all this.

China is notorious for its grey market as well as the trade in more obvious rip-offs, which many Western companies have argued seriously undermines their brand value and their ability to make money in the country.

Last week it emerged that a company making gas stoves had even chosen to emboss its products with a ripped-off Apple logo and branded the shiny machines with the iPhone moniker. ®

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