Muji misses out in removing some disputed trademarks, caught by Chinese owners

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/31 22:28:41

Muji misses out in removing some disputed trademarks

A Muji store in a shopping mall in Shanghai on Wednesday Photo: Xie Jun/GT

Japanese retail chain Muji's removal of the wuyinliangpin characters from trademarks on some of its products after it lost a lawsuit to a Beijing-based company won't affect the company's reputation or popularity, a consumer said.

But experts noted that overseas companies should register sufficient trademarks related to their brands to guard against possible infringement as they develop their businesses in China.

Wuyinliangpin is the Chinese name for Muji meaning "good products with no signs."

The case has taken place at a time when Chinese consumers are getting more familiar with trademark fights between Chinese companies and well-known overseas brands, particularly in terms of fast-moving consumer goods.

News that Muji lost the trademark case and had to remove its famous wuyinliangpin Chinese logo has circulated recently on several Chinese news websites, with some of them saying that Muji had been beaten by "copycat companies" in China. Muji's trademark in China has until now been composed of the word Muji along with the Chinese characters wuyinliangpin.

Muji said that it isn't deliberately retaining the wuyinliangpin characters in the trademarks of some products, but some cases were overlooked.

"We didn't entirely complete our work of removing (the characters from trademarks)," Muji Shanghai, a subsidiary of the Japanese retail chain Muji, said in a statement it sent to the Global Times on Wednesday.

"We will more strictly see to it that the characters are entirely removed," the company noted.

According to the statement, Muji was sued by Beijing Miantian Fabric Co and its subsidiary Beijing Wuyinliangpin Investment Co.

Beijing Miantian claimed that the trademarks on some of Muji's products sold online and in stores (fabric, clothes, towels and other items) violated the company's intellectual property rights. In December 2017, the Beijing Intellectual Property Court ruled for the plaintiffs in the first trial.

The Global Times also found a second trial verdict posted on the website in February, with the court deciding in favor of Beijing Wuyinliangpin. According to the verdict, Beijing Miantian obtained the wuyinliangpin trademark in 2004 and later transferred usage rights to Beijing Wuyinliangpin, while Muji first entered the Chinese mainland market in 2005 by setting up its Shanghai subsidiary.

The Global Times visited a Muji store in Shanghai on Wednesday and observed that the wuyinliangpin characters were absent from the trademarks on its bedding products like blankets and pillows. For products like clothes, the trademark has not been changed.

A shopper surnamed Dai said that she wouldn't think of Muji differently because of the trademark change. "I pay for the quality, not the trademark," she said.

Some overseas brands like New Balance have had a similar experience in terms of losing lawsuits to Chinese companies in trademark infringement cases.

Newspaper headline: Muji misses out in removing some disputed trademarks

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