Copycat clipped in lawsuit over power brushcutter
Jiangmen Intermediate People's Court last month ordered Taizhou Emas Co Ltd in Zhejiang province to immediately cease manufacturing a power brushcutter it found violated the design patent of an Italian company and its China division.
Jiangmen Emak Outdoor Power Equipment Co Ltd and its parent company Emak S.P.A will together receive 60,000 yuan ($9,516) in compensation from Taizhou Emas as part of the judgment.
Jiangmen Emak makes outdoor power equipment such as lawnmowers, chainsaws and brushcutters.
In April 2010, the company's Chinese division discovered a brushcutter on the market made by Taizhou Emas that "shared a quite similar integral visual effect, structure and combination of colors" with its patented product Sparta 44, according to court documents.
On May 31 of the same year, it found that a machinery store in Jiangmen city had two of the copycat brushcutters on sale.
Jiangmen Emak told the court that Taizhou Emas' manufacturing and the store's retailing of the cutters without licensing or authorization "seriously infringed" on its patent rights.
The Italian company was granted an appearance design patent for the cutter by China's State Intellectual Property Office in 2008. It then licensed the patent to its Chinese subsidiary in Jiangmen.
The two plaintiffs filed a suit in December, 2010, providing the court with documents showing Jiangmen Emak was authorized to use the design patent in China exclusively.
Zheng Caiwei, an attorney for Taizhou Emas, argued that "the accused infringement took place before the effect date of the license contract", but the court rejected the claim.
One of the defendants offered a statement to the court confessing that the brushcutters bought from Taizhou Emas were patent-infringing products, and also promised to hand over the machines to Jiangmen Emak and never again purchase the product.
After the suit, SIPO rejected Taizhou Emas' challenge to the validity of the patent and sided with Jiangmen Emak in late March.
Raphael McCarthy, general manager of Jiangmen Emak, said his company's victory in the case made him "more confident that Chinese law system respects and protects intellectual property rights".
"A company's patents and its market competence are proportional," he said. "A company that pays more attention to patents usually has stronger competitiveness. A market-leading company should be one that invests much in intellectual property development."
He also emphasized that Emak would continue pursuing other copycat products to protect its intellectual property.