SPC interpretation says it 'causes adverse influence'
China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) has ruled that the names of public figures should not be used on trademarks.
In a press conference in Beijing Wednesday, the SPC released a legal interpretation of China's Trademark Law, stipulating that names of "public figures in fields such as politics, economics, culture, religion and ethnic affairs" should not be used on trademarks.
The SPC interpretation cites Article 10 of the Trademark Law, which states that using public figures' names in trademarks falls under the category of "causing adverse influence."
The article also states that signs and symbols that are "harmful to socialist morals" cannot be used in trademarks.
The interpretation comes a month after the SPC ruled that three trademarks registered by Fujian-based Qiaodan Sportswear had violated basketball legend Michael Jordan's rights.
Xu Xinming, a Beijing-based lawyer who specializes in intellectual property rights, told the Global Times that the Jordan case and the new interpretation are not necessarily related, as the SPC had previously ruled against Jordan on Article 10 of the Trademark Law.
"It's a case-to-case scenario in deciding who's considered a 'public figure' in the new interpretation. The decision rests in the hands of the Trademark Office under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Trademark Appraisal Committee and eventually the courts," Xu told the Global Times.
Basketball star Michael Jordan accused Qiaodan Sportswear of using his name without his permission, as he believes "Qiaodan" to be a Chinese translation of "Jordan." After the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court ruled against him in 2014, he appealed to the Beijing High People's Court, which also rejected his claim in July 2015. Of the 68 trademark cases Jordan brought to the SPC, the SPC ruled in favor of him in three trademarks.
The new legal interpretation will come into effect on March 1 this year.
Lawsuits involving trademarks have significantly increased in the past two years, according to Song Xiaoming, the third civil court's presiding judge under the SPC.
From 2002 to 2009, the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court heard 2,625 trademark cases. This rose to 2,161 in 2013, 7,951 in 2014 and 7,545 in 2015, according to Song.
A revision in the Trademark Law, which took effect in May 2014, led to a spike in the number of trademark lawsuits that year.
"The revised Trademark Law introduced a penal system for trademark infringement, which encouraged claimants to defend their legal rights," Xu said.