Burberry Loses its Trademark Rights in China

Even as the sales of Burberry has been increasing in China, the trademark office of China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce cancelled the company’s trademark for its iconic tartan pattern in November 2013. The reason for cancellation of the trademark as given by the office was that Burberry had not used the signature beige-black-and-red tartan pattern on leather goods in the last three years, which is sufficient in China to question a trademark ownership.

This cancellation of the trademark is the result of a prolonged battle between Burberry and Polo Santa Roberta (PSR), a Chinese-based leather company that produces similar leather pattern as Burberry. The dispute started in 2004 when Burberry filed a trademark infringement suit against PSR for the use of its trademarked tartan pattern. However, in 2010 a Hong Kong court ruled in favour of Burberry and restrained PSR from selling products similar to Burberry’s traditional check. In response to this ruling, PSR filed a suit to have the trademark cancelled as Burberry has not been using the designs for more than 3 years, and they also accused Burberry of monopolizing a part of Scotland’s cultural heritage, the tartan pattern.

After the cancellation of Burberry’s trademark in November 2013, PSR again registered a suit against Burberry seeking 500 million Yuan ($82 million) as compensation against losses incurred by the company during the disputes with Burberry. In the interim, Burberry appealed the cancellation telling that there is no change to Burberry’s use or enforcement of its trademark across leather or any other products. Burberry is positive as to the outcome of the appeal.

The trademark cancellation may reduce Burberry’s sales significantly, as many companies can now freely introduce counterfeit products with Burberry’s signature mark, and such type of luxury counterfeit items are common in China.

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