Can Carnival Films Retake the Downton Abbey Trademark Squatted in China?

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(By Luo Yanjie) According to a recent report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the British television series Downton Abbey (In Chinese, translated as “唐顿庄园 Tangdun Zhuangyuan”), which is very popular in China, and Carnival Films, who produced Downton Abbey, was attempting to sell Downton (in Chinese, Downtown is translated as “唐顿 Tangdun”) branded wine in the North American, European and Australian markets. However, according to a disclosure by the State Trademark Office, some Chinese merchants drew first blood, registering the “唐顿庄园 Tangdun Zhuangyuan” trademark and subsequently obtaining rights in the trademark. This news also pointed out that a Shandong-based Merchant Li Xiangjun had already received ownership of the “唐顿庄园 Tangdun Zhuangyuan” trademark for wines in China.

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“Passive use” is not equivalent to “Prior use” under Article 31 of the Trademark law

(By Luo Yanjie) Pursuant to Article 31 of the Trademark Law: anyone applying for trademark registration may not damage the existing rights of others obtained by priority, neither may it register, in advance, a trademark that has been used by others and has become influential. In practice, consumers apply a “name” to a product, which can then be considered a kind of “trademark” for the product itself. Is such passive use attributable to prior use? In regard to this legal issue, there are no actual legal provisions speaking to it in Mainland China. However, the answer in today’s post appears to be a resounding no.

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