Trademark infringement cases are difficult enough to handle when they occur within a country’s borders, but dealing with infringement becomes more complicated across international borders. A company that’s well- known globally may suddenly discover that their branding is in use internationally by independent businesses – and not by accident. We’ve collected 4 examples of blatant international trademark infringement cases, and their results…
“Borrowing” a Brand, or International Trademark Infringement?
International trademark infringement cases commonly result from the use of linguistically or phonetically similar words or phrases in another language. However in some cases they result from companies specifically copying profitable and well-known brands to increase their business.
“Borrowing” the branding of another company can bring financial gain and increased exposure to a lesser-known, local company. However, positioning a company to profit off of the branding of another does not come without repercussions.
That being said, some companies will still try to get away with it.
Check out four such international trademark infringement cases below! It should be noted that these are just representative cases, and that they have not only occurred in the countries listed in the examples.
4 Blatant International Trademark Infringement Cases
Qiaodan and Air Jordan’s, China
Perhaps one of the most well recognized pieces of footwear and its “jumpman” logo faced a case of brand “borrowing” in China. Michael Jordan took to filing a lawsuit against a Chinese company who’s brand was suspiciously similar to that of Mr. Jordan’s – from the name “Qiaodan” which sounds like Jordan and is often the name Mr. Jordan is called in China, to the use of Mr. Jordan’s jersey number and children’s names, right down to the logo replicating the jumpman. Unfortunately for Mr. Jordan, the Chinese court of law originally ruled in favor of the Chinese company. However, in 2016 Mr. Jordan was successful in gaining a victory to the ownership of the rights to his Chinese name Qiaodan – in Chinese characters only.
American Eagle, India
In 2015, another US clothing retailer filed against trademark infringement in India. American Eagle Outfitters, owned by the San Francisco-based Retail Royalty Company , filed a suit in the Delhi high court against the Indian company, Pantaloons Fashion & Retail for using their name, branding and logo. Pantaloons, one of India’s leading family clothing stores, is owned by Aditya Birla Fashion Ltd. The latter claimed that their name brand, “Urban Eagle Authentic Outfitters”, was distinct from that of the US company “America Eagle Outfitters”, and that their logo of an “Urban Eagle” was unique from the “American Eagle” since their’s depicts an eagle ascending while in the American Eagle logo the eagle is descending. The court ruling, however, alleged that both the brand and logo were “deceptively similar” to the trademark of American Eagle Outfitters. The verdict is still pending…
Louis Vuitton Dak, South Korea
One case of international trademark infringement that made big news was the battle between a South Korean fried chicken restaurant, Louis Vuitton Dak, and the famous French fashion designer, Louis Vuitton. The court ruled in the designer’s favor after determining that the restaurant’s name “Louis Vuitton Dak” was too similar to the original “Louis Vuitton”. In addition to the name infringement, the restaurant’s logo and packaging were painfully similar to the French designer’s brand. The problem was made worse by the fact that in addition to trademark infringement, the French company felt that an association with fried chicken was far from complementary to their public image. In an attempt to mitigate the issue, the restaurant decided to slightly alter their name by using a play on the word for “whole chicken” in Korean – “tondak” (닭 전체). They ultimately changed the name to “Louis Vui Tondak”. Unfortunately for the South Korean restaurant, this was still considered an infringement and as a result they were fined an additional 14.5 million won (equivalent to $12,750 USD).
Gucci and Forever 21, US
It’s not always that U.S. companies find their brands being “borrowed” overseas – sometimes they are the ones doing the “borrowing”. This is the case with the lawsuit between Gucci and LA fast fashion retailer Forever 21. Gucci claims that Forever 21 has used its trademark green and red striped design on various pieces of its clothing – and argues in one sense that this confuses consumers as the colors function as a mark of a product being from the Gucci fashion house. These stripes, as well as other designs appearing in the Gucci line, have been used by Forever 21 on a variety of clothing items. The case is still ongoing, but recently in 2017 Gucci did get a victory when Forever 21’s complaint against Gucci was dismissed. Forever 21 can however, refile.
Have you heard of any other big international trademark infringement examples? Let us know in the comments!
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