Two English Premier League football teams are suing China's trademark watchdog for copyright infringement in Beijing over the unauthorized use of their names.
London-based Arsenal appealed to the court last Wednesday to force the China Trademark Board to revoke the "Arsenal" trademarks registered by Daguangming Glasses Company, according to a press release from Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court yesterday.
Meanwhile, Manchester United is suing the board over a similar issue, in a case set to open Thursday.
Arsenal said the glasses manufacturer, based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, had used the name "Arsenal" in English and Chinese characters since 2004, when Daguangming registered the trademark. Arsenal said they had previously registered both the Chinese and English versions, however, the board argued there was no evidence submitted by Arsenal showing that the club had been registered prior to the glasses company, and for similar products.
The board said there had not been "any bad influence following the registration," and refused to review the decision, prompting the court action.
"Anything saying 'Arsenal' or with the logo would make me curious and excited, and I'd feel cheated if it's not authorized by the club," said an Arsenal fan, surnamed Qin, who founded a website dedicated to the club.
"But I guess products like glasses would fool nobody," said Qin.
Chen Jianfeng, a lawyer from Beijing Tengming Law Firm, said that although under the China Trademark Law, using registered and well-known trademarks is forbidden, the club would have to prove they had registered the "Arsenal" trademark for a similar category of products, other than football jerseys or shoes.
Yesterday, court media officer Chang Ming said this is not the only case in which an overseas football club is suing the board.
Manchester United is suing after the board approved an application from an individual, surnamed Wang to file a trademark registration for toys under "MANCHESTER UNITED," said Chang.
The club said in the filing that although it envisioned a bright future in China, it could not help noticing the frequent infringement of its trademark by local companies.
Last February, British carmaker Land Rover filed suit against the board to revoke the "Lu Hu" trademark registered by Geely, the country's biggest private automaker. While the board rejected the appeal, the Beijing court ruled for Land Rover, as Geely registered it knowing that it was used as Land Rover's Chinese name.
The board could not be reached for comment yesterday.