Monopolizing the shape of a rose for chocolate? Hogan Lovells successfully defends Wawi in a complex 3D trademark and OEM dispute in China
18 March 2019
18 March 2019 - Hogan Lovells China team and Hogan Lovells Fidelity have recently secured an important victory for WAWI Xiamen (i.e. the Chinese subsidiary of the leading German chocolate manufacturer Wawi Group), successfully defending it from a 3D trademark infringement claim before a Chinese court. The case involves cutting-edge IP issues such as the distinctiveness and infringement assessment for 3D-trademarks, and the non-infringement defence for Original Equipment Manufacturing ("OEM").
Wawi Xiamen, a chocolate manufacturer based in China, regularly receives orders from one of its U.S. clients to manufacture rose-shaped chocolates, bearing the U.S. client's word mark, produced exclusively for export to the U.S. market (i.e. Original Equipment Manufacturing, or "OEM"). A local chocolate company ("the Plaintiff") owning a PRC 3D trademark registration for a rose shape, covering, inter alia, chocolates, alleged that the production of the chocolates in the PRC by Wawi Xiamen infringed its 3D rose shape trademark. It therefore requested China Customs to seize Wawi Xiamen's shipments to its U.S. client. Subsequently, the Plaintiff also brought a trademark infringement case against Wawi before the Xiamen Intermediate People’s Court (“the Court”).
The key issues involved in this civil case are (1) whether the 3D rose shape applied on chocolates can serve as a source identifier; and (2) the applicability of the non-infringement defence for OEM production, when some elements for a clear-cut application of such defence are lacking.
This is a significant victory for the WAWI Group, especially considering the highly contentious nature of OEM in trademark procedures in China and the many divergent opinions in Chinese legal practice on these issues. The client is highly satisfied with the result and considers the Court's judgment encouraging, and a clear message about the improving clarity and efficiency of intellectual property litigation in China. The case also highlights Hogan Lovells' capacity to successfully litigate complex IP disputes before the Chinese courts, in cooperation with our associated firm Hogan Lovells Fidelity.
The lawyers advising WAWI Xiamen on the subject matter include: Helen Xia (Partner, Beijing), Jonathan Liang (Counsel, Hogan Lovells Fidelity), Crystal Li (Associate, Hogan Lovells Fidelity), and Fred Liang (Associate, Hogan Lovells Fidelity).
About Hogan Lovells Fidelity
Hogan Lovells International LLP ("Hogan Lovells") and Fujian Fidelity Law Firm ("Fidelity") have created a non-legal person association in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. The association operates under the "Hogan Lovells Fidelity" brand, a trading name of the Fujian Fidelity Law Firm Hogan Lovells International LLP (Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone).
About Hogan Lovells
Hogan Lovells is a leading global law firm providing business-oriented legal advice and high-quality service across its exceptional breadth of practices to clients around the world. Hogan Lovells is a top 10 global legal practice with over 49 offices, 850 partners and 2,500 lawyers throughout the world.