Chinese court awards $1.5 mln copyright damages to New Balance

Picture : Supplied

A Chinese court has awarded US athletics shoemaker New Balance some $1.5 million in copyright damages over its famous “N” logo, a rare victory for a Western brand in the country.

A court in the eastern city of Suzhou ruled that three defendants who made shoes under the brand name New Boom “acted in concert to infringe” the rights of the US firm, according to a copy of the verdict obtained Thursday by AFP.

The judges noted the almost perfect similarity of the logos, along with other factors, and concluded that the counterfeit products could be “easily confused” with the authentic US shoes.

The court ordered the three — entrepreneur Zheng Chaosong and the Xinpingheng and Bosidake companies — jointly to pay about 10 million yuan in damages.

New Balance has had a presence since 1995 in China, where sales of sports equipment are growing rapidly.

The judgement is a very rare victory for a Western brand in an intellectual property infringement case in China, and the damages are far larger than usually granted by Chinese courts.

The decision was announced shortly after US President Donald Trump launched a sweeping investigation into China’s record on intellectual property.

Many foreign companies say China’s judicial system is lax on counterfeiters.

New Balance in April 2015 lost a lawsuit against a Chinese investor who had registered the Mandarin name of the American shoemaker (“Xinbailun”) on his own behalf.

Similarly, a Chinese leather craftsman who in 2007 registered an “IPHONE” trademark for a category of leather goods won a lawsuit last year against electronics giant Apple.

The judges ruled he registered it before iPhones arrived in China.

In another notable ruling a Beijing court in 2015 rejected a complaint by basketball player Michael Jordan against a Chinese sportswear brand for using his name in Mandarin.

But a subsequent court ruling in Jordan’s favour finally last year allowed the former NBA star to reclaim his name.