Shareholders beware: you may be liable for brand hijacking

By Irene Zeng and Eric Su, HFG

In January 2007, Mr Gu registered a Hong Kong company, France Hennessy Wine (HK) Group Stock Limited (“HK Hennessy”), containing the “HENNESSY” trade name, for HK$10,000. On 15 February, Mr Gu registered and established Hangzhou Burgundy Wine Co Ltd (“Burgundy”) in Hangzhou, in which he held 90% of the shares and served as legal representative, and on the same day registered the domain name ‘’.

On 16 February the same year, HK Hennessy authorised Burgundy to act as its marketing centre in the PRC, selling “HABSBURG” brand wines. The trademark used on said wine was very similar to the “hand with axe device” trademark registered by the plaintiff, Jas Hennessy & Co, and carried the words “Authorised by France Hennessy Wine (HK) Group Stock Limited”.

Additionally, in its business activities and on its website, it made frequent use of the Chinese version of the plaintiff’s “HENNESSY” trademark to promote “HABSBURG” wine. For this reason, in December 2007 the Hangzhou Municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce investigated Burgundy. In January 2009, the Hong Kong High Court rendered a judgment ordering HK Hennessy to cease using the word “HENNESSY” and its Chinese equivalent. In June 2009, the Shaoxing County Administration for Industry and Commerce investigated and dealt with a “HABSBURG” wine distributor, however the infringement is still continuing.

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Irene Zeng is a founding partner and Eric Su is a partner in the Shanghai office of HFG

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