New Guiding Case on Enterprise Name Protection

The Stanford Guiding Cases project has recently released a translation of an IP-related case on enterprise name protection, Tianjin China Youth Travel Service v. Tianjin Guoqing International Travel Agency, A Dispute over an Unauthorized Use of Another Enterprise’s Name.

The Stanford website describes the case as involving the protection of an abbreviated enterprise name that has been widely used externally for a long period of time and that functions as a trade name, and protecting against keyword purchases by a business operator who uses that enterprise name without authorization causing the public to be confused and misidentify the enterprise.

The court relied upon relevant provisions of the Civil Law, the Anti-Unfair Competition Law and the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in the Handling of Unfair Competition Civil Cases (2006).  In holding that the abbreviated enterprise name also functions as a trade name, the court also noted that the Communist Youth League Tianjin Committee had issued a certificate stating that “Tianjin Qinglü” was the abbreviated enterprise name of Tianjin China Youth Travel Service, a State Owned Enterprise and that the name had been adopted by media outlets.  This guiding case was decided by the Tianjin High Court, which ordered compensation of 30,000 RMB, an apology and enjoined further infringing conduct.

This case offers potentially useful guidance for foreign-invested enterprises whose trade names enjoy market visibility and are known to the relevant public.  These trade names may be deemed an “enterprise name” and enjoy protection from unfair competition.  Foreign companies often have trade names thrust upon their trademarked product or enterprise names when the Chinese consuming public believes another name may be more appropriate (e.g., Wrigley’s “green arrow” gum).  This case may offer some guidelines for developing strategies to protect those names from enterprise name “squatters,” including in the on-line environment.

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