Landmark Chinese Trademark Ruling Favors Starbucks Brand

"Starbucks Corporation has been in a long running dispute with coffee shops in Shanghai and Qingdao over the use of the Starbucks trademark in China. Starbucks has prevailed in both actions...The message from this case to foreign companies involved with China is clear:

- Register your trademarks early.
- Register your Chinese name even if you do not plan to use it right away. This is especially important if your Chinese name is different from your company name, as was the case with Starbucks.
- Registering your trademarks in China is a necessary start towards protecting them, but it may not be enough. The Chinese government will not protect your trademark for you. You must enforce the trademark yourself.
- If you properly register your trademarks in China you will probably succeed in an enforcement action. However, you must be prepared to incur the legal costs of enforcement. China is a huge and complex country. If your product is successful, there is a good chance it will be copied. You will need to vigorously defend your rights from the very start in order to prevent this.

The good news we can take from the Starbucks case in Qingdao is that that China's legal system has developed to the point where intellectual property rights can be successfully defended through legal action."

Read more in this post from the China Law Blog which is part ii of this post.