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27-08-2014 » The protection of French trademarks in Chinese characters reaffirmed

An interesting and important Decision concerning two French trademarks in Chinese characters, 拉菲销售 and 拉菲莱斯 designating alcoholic beverage and wines, was issued by the Versailles Appeal Court on 29 April 2014. 

The prior trademark “拉菲销售” (Lafite distribution) is held by the Domaines Barons de Rothschild, which is very well-known in Chinese characters as [拉菲]; a French company filed a French trademark application composed of 4 Chinese characters “拉菲莱斯” (Lafiness), in which the two first Chinese characters are identical to the prior trademark. Before the French Trademark Office, the second trademark was partially rejected as for the Office, there was a possible risk of confusion between the signs. 

The Versailles Appeal Court rejected the Appeal formed by the Applicant against the refusal decision by the French Trademark Office, therefore upholding the imitation, considering that the consumer concerned who is the average French consumer, and not the Chinese or Chinese originated, is not familiar with Chinese language and will not see and understand the differences between these Chinese characters. 

This decision is an important one for Chinese applicants as it favors the protection of trademarks in Chinese characters against imitations. Therefore it may encourage Chinese applicants to seek protection of their trademarks in France.

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