Can Prior Rights in a Business Name Counterfeit With a Subsequent Trademark Right?

Abstract: trademark holder is not necessarily entitled to prevent others from using its trademark into a business name because operation method needs to be judged. On the contrary, consideration upon prior right of business name does not just depend on first registration but on operation methods.

(By Luo Yanjie)Using another’s registered trademark as a business name is a common phenomenon of copycat brand names in China. In today’s post we would like to introduce a typical case to you. Relying on the fact that the business name “凯伦 Kanren” was registered earlier than that of the trademark, the court determined the defendant did not infringe upon the exclusive rights in the trademark. In the author’s opinion, the ratio decidendi is worth further discussion:


“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.


The Interpretation on the Ceased Use for Three Consecutive Years in China Trademark Law

It’s regulated in China Trademark Law that when the registered trademark is ceased for use for three consecutive years, the trademark office shall order him to rectify the situation within a specified period or even cancel the registered trademark. And the understanding on the ceased use is the most consulted question to us. In fact, such article was once referred in the administrative adjudication made by the Supreme People’s Court of China, and that may help us in understanding the article.