A Chinese property tycoon fights an unusual trademark battle

December 31, 2019 16:58
Evergrande founder Xu Jiayin is not giving up on a fight with a mainland businessman who had registered the billionaire tycoon's name as a trademark. Photo: Reuters

Mainland property tycoon Xu Jiayin, founder of China Evergrande Group (03333.HK), surprisingly lost in a lawsuit against a company that uses the billionaire's name as a trademark.

In 2013, a Chinese businessman named Chen Huanran registered “Xu Jiayin” as a trademark to sell textile products of his firm.

Xu was not aware of that until 2017. After the matter came to his attention, the tycoon filed a case against the company to revoke the trademark.

However, the Beijing Intellectual Property Rights Court has rejected Xu’s request on the grounds of existing prior right. The court said Xu failed to prove Chen maliciously registered the name as a trademark.

The court decision was somewhat unexpected. But it is not entirely unreasonable.

With a population of 1.4 billion, there could be more than one Xu Jiayin in China. That means Xu may not necessarily be the only one that has the right to use this name.

In addition, Chen’s company only uses the Chinese characters of “Xu Jiayin” without using his pictures and portrait. It’s difficult to prove the company has violated the rights of the Xu Jiayin from Evergrande.

Evergrande, meanwhile, has appealed against the ruling. It would be interesting to see if it can convince the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court with its arguments afresh.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 30

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist