A Chinese individual has registered a trademark on furniture using the Chinese translation of “Iron Man” and the graphic of this movie figure. This trademark is on sale on the internet at US$33,333, while the registration fee for the trademark was no more than US$500. This is just the tip of the iceberg of China’s rampant trademark pirating activities. Many companies and individuals operate trademark pirating as their businesses, and many companies have successfully registered and used very similar trademarks to “free ride” on the reputation of more well-known companies.
Character names from movies are a popular target in trademark pirating activities. Under the current trademark law system of China, there is no single solid and powerful deterrent sufficient to stop pirating movie character names as a trademark. The main reasons for this include: the extreme difficulty in acquiring well-known trademark recognition; the merchandising right of these names is not accepted; movie character names do not enjoy copyright; controversial opinions on whether movie character names count as a prior right, as stipulated in article 31 of the Trademark Law; and the “adverse effect” clause in the Trademark Law cannot be cited in solving conflicts of private rights.
In order to protect movie character names, right owners should establish a strategic and comprehensive plan so that their valuable and limited legal budget can be allocated more efficiently.
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Damien Wang is a senior associate and client manager at Chang Tsi & Partners
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Beijing 100044, China
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