When the Bavarian Supreme Court ordered a German company to stop infringing on the trademark of the century-old Chinese "Wangzhihe" brand, it took the judge a mere five minutes to read the ruling against Okai, a German food import and export company.
China has been a major player in the World Trade Organization for more than seven years. Although this victory may help other Chinese companies significantly in defending their rights as they compete in international markets, the first win by a time-honored Chinese brand in defending its intellectual property rights overseas came a bit too late.
The trademark infringement case concerning the "Wangzhihe" brand is the tip of the iceberg in terms of piracy of Chinese trademarks abroad, a fact overshadowed by Western media reports about intellectual property rights violations in China.
The British daily Financial Times last week reported that two individuals have registered at least 60 well-known Chinese trademarks in Canada. "Chinese companies are falling victim to trademark pirates abroad," the newspaper said.
According to China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce
(SAIC), there have been more than 2,000 cases involving the pirating of Chinese trademarks overseas since the 1980s with annual losses of 1 billion yuan ($147 million).
It is regretful that very few Chinese companies have resorted to lawsuits to defend their rights overseas.
The landmark "Wangzhihe" case was a key step in making Chinese companies aware that they can defend their rights overseas by filing lawsuits, a must as they participate in international markets and make their trademarks known around the globe.
Wolfgang Festl-Wietek, the German lawyer who represented the Wangzhihe Food Group, warned that Chinese companies should realize the importance of intellectual property rights protection before entering the overseas markets.
Chinese companies should learn to use international rules and laws to protect their rights.