SHANGHAI — Cartier has been awarded almost $30,000 in compensation by a Shanghai court in a trademark infringement case.
This story first appeared in the April 11, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Pudong New Area People’s Court in Shanghai ruled on Monday that two Beijing-based jewelry companies — Beijing Mengkela Science and Technology Co. Ltd. and Beijing Huixin Tianyuan Science and Trade Co. Ltd. — as well China’s largest online supermarket, the Shanghai-based Yihaodian.com, who sold the latter company’s products, had used the Cartier brand in their advertisements to attract customers without permission.
In its ruling, which was released to local media, the court agreed that the advertisements may have confused consumers about the quality and style of genuine Cartier jewelry.
According to Xinming Xu, a Beijing-based lawyer who specializes in intellectual property matters, the ruling was indicative of an increasing awareness on China’s part of the damage done by trademark infringement.
“With the Chinese government increasingly fighting trademark infringement with severity, as well as Chinese courts awarding more and more compensation for infringement of trademark and other intellectual property, one can imagine that the extent of trademark infringement will begin to significantly reduce,” he said.
Though China has relatively comprehensive intellectual property legislation on the books, problems often arise in the area of enforcement, with corrupt officials turning a blind eye to lawbreakers.
This may be changing. Also on Monday, new President Xi Jinping opened an international business conference in China’s resort island of Hainan by signaling his country’s willingness to create a positive business environment for international companies, and also indicating a renewed focus on intellectual property.
“We are protecting the legitimate rights of foreign enterprises according to law,” Xi said, according to state news agency Xinhua. “China’s market environment will be fairer and more attractive.”
Cartier’s lawsuit, filed last July, accused the Chinese companies of unfair competition and trademark infringement, arguing that consumers had been misled by phrases such as “Cartier classic style” and “Cartier collection,” which had been used by the Beijing jewelers and their Shanghai distribution partner without authorization from Cartier to describe products that were not manufactured by or affiliated with the French brand.
Lawyers for Cartier also pointed out, as part of the suit, that the French brand had been granted status as a well-known trademark by Chinese courts multiple times in the past.
Cartier had been asking for 550,000 renminbi, about $80,000, in damages from each company, as well as a public apology. Instead, the Chinese companies were ordered to pay Cartier a total of 180,000 renminbi, or a little more than $29,000.
Despite the fact that it was using materials supplied by Beijing Huixin Tianyuan Science and Trade Co. Ltd, the court ruled that Yihaodian.com was also partially liable and should pay a portion of the compensation to Cartier.