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April 23, 2021

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Ruling in dumpling trademark lawsuit

An intellectual property case about the xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings) trademark ended yesterday with a Pudong New Area court ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiffs over 2.34 million yuan (US$360,000).

In August, Shanghai Yuyuan Garden Nanxiang Steamed Buns Co and its stakeholder Shanghai Old-Town Temple Restaurant (Group) Co sued Shanghai Nanxiang Food Co and three other parties, including its franchise store and the store owner, over trademark infringement and illicit competition.

The plaintiffs said they had registered the “Nanxiang” service trademark for the restaurant category in 1994 and was honored as a “time-honored brand” in 2006 by the Ministry of Commerce.

They found the “Nanxiang” name used on posters, menus and tableware in the defendant’s store. They also alleged misleading advertising, with phrases such as “a hundred years of Nanxiang.” They had asked for 3 million yuan in compensation.

But the defendants said they had registered the “Nanxiang” commodity trademark for the xiaolongbao category in 1985. It was also honored as a “time-honored brand” by the Ministry of Commerce in 2011.

The court found that the defendants had infringed the plaintiffs’ trademark because the service trademark can be used on shop signs and related equipment such as tableware but the commodity trademark could only be used on related physical products.

However, the court didn’t agree with the claim of illicit competition and misleading advertising because both sides had been accepted by authorities and consumers.

The number of intellectual property cases had grown by over 70 percent in the past year, Shanghai High People’s Court said yesterday, ahead of the World Intellectual Property Day on Monday.

Local courts heard more than 40,100 cases, including disputes over copyright, and patents, in 2020 with over 37,400 cases concluded.

To improve the handling of cases, courts had strengthened pre-litigation. For example, local courts started working with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Shanghai Center for Arbitration and Mediation last year. Three in 18 cases were successfully mediated.


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