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April 19, 2012

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Johnnie Walker scotch wins infringement suit

Diageo, the British-based maker of Johnnie Walker, received 120,000 yuan (US$19,046) compensation from two Chinese companies that used the Scotch whisky's name on their skin-care products, the Shanghai Intellectual Property Administration said yesterday.

Diageo brought the trademark-infringement suit to the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, saying two Chinese companies in neighboring Jiangsu Province used the name and pattern similar to Johnnie Walker's registered trademarks and seeking 500,000 yuan in compensation.

The defendants, Bishuang Biological Technology Co and Wuxi Yongru Biological Cosmetics Co, argued that their Johnnie Walker product name was registered under a different category from the whisky maker in 2007.

"Chinese customers will not be misled because our name was used on olive oil skin-care products," the defendants said.

Diageo argued that using the Johnny Walker name would mislead Chinese buyers to believe the cosmetics companies had something to do with the whisky maker.

The court said the issue came down to whether Johnnie Walker was a famous trademark deserving protection under the Chinese Trademark Law.

Over the past five years, Johnnie Walker has invested nearly 800 million yuan on advertising and promotion activities in China. The foreign firm also provided evidence including its latest market share to prove Johnnie Walker was a famous trademark.

This was one of the 10 typical intellectual property cases in Shanghai announced by the Shanghai Intellectual Property Administration yesterday. Among the 10 cases, six were related to trademark infringement, followed by copyright and patent infringement.

In another case, Baidu Inc, the owner of China's largest search engine, was ordered to pay 500,000 yuan to a Shanghai entertainment information-technology company for offering search results linking to the pirated version of five novels owned by the Shanghai company.

According to a white paper released by the administration yesterday, Shanghai police last year nabbed 1,731 suspects accused of producing and selling counterfeit products worth 880 million yuan. Local courts accepted about 3,000 IPR civil cases, up 14.8 percent from 2010.

"We carried out more than 260,000 inspections to crack down counterfeit products across the city. We've seen this measure as effective and will continue to protect the rights of IPR holders," said Lu Guoqiang, director of the administration.

The white paper also revealed that Shanghai handled a record number of patent applications last year, exceeding 80,000. The biggest increase came from invention patent applications, which made up 40 percent of the total. But the volume of design patent applications dropped 21.5 percent from 2010.

"Design patents require less technology than invention and utility model patents," said Nei Li, a publicity official with the administration.

"And there are a lot of junk patents under that category," Nei said.


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