A Christmas tale: Chinese IP pirates vs Kiwi wine brands

“Hundreds of New Zealand vineyards and wineries entered the Christmas season with some distressing news—a pirate had filed trade mark applications for their names in China.”

That’s an eye-raising opening sentence, and given how often China is tied to intellectual property rights challenges, not an especially hopeful one. But as this post by Gillian Nelson and Amanda Griffiths of the IP service firm AJ Park, explains, it wasn’t coal and stockings for Kiwi wineries last Christmas.

In short, a Chinese company firm filed trademark applications for a wide swath of New Zealand brands but saw most of them denied, with Nelson and Griffiths writing that the “newly implemented anti-pirating trade mark law in China seems to be working for legitimate trade mark owners.” This apparent success, however, in no way means that brand owners should let down their guard.

“China is a strong-hold for IP pirates, where it is the first person who files a trade mark application that is considered the trade mark’s owner,” the pair explain. “If [pirates] can get a trade mark application underway before the true brand owner does, they stand to make money. Typically, they will either threaten to sue the true owner for trade mark infringement (unless the true owner pays), or they will offer to sell the trade mark registration to the true owner for an exorbitant sum.”

But as of November 1, China also has “intention to use” and “bad faith” rules, which can also be used in the fight against pirates. “The new approach is still in its early stages, but for New Zealand’s wine industry, it has brought hope in the New Year,” write Nelson an Griffiths.

Read their full post here.

Another good source on China, business and the law is the aptly named China Law Blog, by Harris Bricken, which has been dispensing advice for 14 years as of this month. While it is not often wine specific, it does offer good general insights into China’s business environment. And sometimes it does delve into vino specifically, such as with this series.

Good content takes resources. If you find Grape Wall useful, help cover its costs via PayPal, WeChat or credit / debit card. Also check out Grape Wall on Facebook. Twitter and Instagram. And sibling sites World Marselan DayWorld Baijiu Day and Beijing Boyce.

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