After more than 20 years of legal battle with China, the famous designer of luxury shoes Manolo Blahnik announced yesterday Tuesday that he won his case and will now be able to use his own name in the country.
Let’s go back 23 years, when, in 1999, a trademark named “Manolo & Blahnik” was registered. Although this name subtly takes the name of the British brand, this brand is approved in January 2000 in China, because in the country prevails a system of “first applicant” .
The same year, the house explains in a statement that it filed a complaint with the Chinese Trademark Office, because this brand prevented the designer from using his own name throughout China. This led to 22 years of legal proceedings, a case that was repeatedly referred to appeal, while Manolo Blahnik pleaded to prove the existence since the 1970s of his brand and the non-use of the trademark in China.
The hearing took place last January before the Supreme People’s Court of China, where a final judgment of the latter in June finally gave reason to the designer and confirmed the invalidation of the first registration of the name, after having received rejection after rejection.
Release for Manolo Blahnik
Denied access to the Chinese market for more than two decades, Kristina Blahnik, CEO of the company and niece of the founder, shared her eagerness to make up for lost time by “sharing Manolo’s history, creations and passions” and to finally join the “dynamic future” of China.
For his part, Spanish designer Manolo Blahnik, the brand’s founder and creative director said: “We are humbled and grateful for the support we have received in China and internationally, both within the fashion industry and beyond. This generous support has contributed greatly to this positive outcome. My sincere thanks to the Supreme People’s Court of China and everyone involved in this very long case; the outcome is remarkable”.
In addition, the company also praised the evolution of China’s trademark regime over the years. Far from being an isolated case, many other Western brands or groups have experienced cases of usurpation of their own name in China, discovering when marketing their products there that their brand had already been registered by a local firm.
In 2016, a local sports equipment manufacturer was using the Mandarin phonetic transcription of American basketball legend Michael Jordan‘s surname for its sales. After several years of proceedings, the Chinese Supreme Court finally decided to ban the marketing of this brand under this name.
So, for the big companies wishing to establish themselves abroad and take advantage of the flourishing Chinese market, this first-to-file system has proved to be a real handicap. But with the positive verdict for Manolo Blahnik, the step seems to have been taken for other firms facing the same dispute in the future, towards a fair and legitimate legislation of the use of international and recognized brand names.
Georgina McManus, Manolo Blahnik’s General Manager of the Legal Department, concludes by emphasizing that “this is a historic decision that demonstrates that the Supreme People’s Court of China is committed to applying fundamental justice” .
Feautred Photo : © Manolo Blahnik
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