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July 27, 2013

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Writing on wall for look-alike pen?

A FOUNTAIN pen made by local brand Hero that looks remarkably similar to a design by German company Lamy has found itself at the center of debate.

The Hero pen in a brightly colored series called Summer Color closely resembles Lamy's vibrant Safari range.

However, while a Lamy pen retails at 398 yuan (US$64.8) from its online store, shoppers can pick up a Hero look-alike for 58.8 yuan from Taobao.

Until recently, that was.

Days after being launched on the online trading platform, the Hero pen attracted the attention of Lamy's agent in China.

The Summer Color pen has now been removed from Taobao, Shanghai Daily discovered yesterday.
"We've informed the German company of the issue and they are taking measures," said a manager, surnamed Yu, with Lamy's agent in China.

Hero is a long-established pen brand in China, with headquarters in Shanghai dating back to the 1930s.

It has almost as a long history as Lamy in Germany.

The alleged infringement has disappointed many people who have used Hero brand pen since they were children.

"Hero is already a famous local brand," said Li Mengmeng, a Shanghai resident.

"It is unnecessary for Hero to take on other's fame. I'm really ashamed of this," added Li.
But Hero told Shanghai Daily that the exterior design patent right of Lamy's Safari series has expired, as such rights are protected for only 10 years in China.

"Lamy has been selling this type of pen since the 1980s. It is very popular in China and looks good but is too pricey for many local customers," said a spokesman, surnamed Zhao, at Hero's Lishui plant where the new pen was produced.

Zhao said Hero decided to produce the pen because it received many requests and saw market demand.

"We've consulted our lawyers who told us we can do it. We wouldn't infringe others rights, but the patent is no longer valid," Zhao said.

Zhao said selling the new pen on Taobao was just "testing the water."

"We know the new pen might stir up some debate among the public, but are still willing to produce it to benefit customers," he added.

Zhao said he hadn't received any lawyer's notice or negotiation request from Lamy.

However, according to Liu Chunquan, a Shanghai lawyer, Hero might still fall foul of the Chinese Law of unfair competition - even if the exterior design patent was indeed found to be no longer valid.


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