New Balance wins China piracy suit

NY Times News Service, BEIJING

Mon, May 01, 2017 - Page 16

New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc has won a rare legal victory in China in an intellectual property dispute: A court has ordered five shoe manufacturers and sellers to pay the state US$250,000 for using the US shoemaker’s signature slanting “N” logo.

The company has battled legions of counterfeit manufacturers, taken on a rogue supplier who exported its shoes at a deep discount and, most recently, struggled in court to win the use of its Chinese name.

In a preliminary decision, the Suzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Monday last week fined the five companies for breaching an injunction issued in September last year prohibiting them from selling shoes with the logo, according to a report in China Intellectual Property Magazine.

The US$250,000 in fines is to go to the state. The court is to issue its final judgment at the end of this month, at which time New Balance could get damages.

New Balance senior global corporate communications manager Amy Dow confirmed the penalty, saying the brand used by all five was called New Boom.

Dow said New Balance sued under China’s anti-unfair competition law, because the country’s trademark laws “currently provide slight loopholes for these brands to exist.”

“These actions are significantly more costly than traditional counterfeit enforcement measures, but New Balance believes strongly in the protection of our intellectual property,” she said.

Chinese manufacturers copy everything about a product, but with a slight modification of the brand name. For New Balance, that meant consumers ran into New Boom, New Barlun and New Bunren — brands that are protected under China’s trademark law.

“Parasite brands are fast becoming the scariest form of ‘counterfeit’ within China,” Dow said in an e-mailed response.

Dow said another Chinese court had awarded New Balance US$550,000 last month in a judgment against companies making New Bunren brand shoes.

Separately, New Balance has an outstanding case against manufacturers using the brand New Barlun.