Heineken Becomes the Latest International Company to Face Trademark Troubles in China

Heineken is the latest international company to face roadblocks registering its trademark in China. The popular beer maker alleges that Wujiang Xili Machinery Factory, a small Chinese sewing company, is illegally using its name and logo.

As FT.com reports, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce previously rejected Wujiang Xili’s prior attempt to register two Heineken names, citing “bad faith.” The current dispute involves a third version, which Heineken has also petitioned to cancel.

Of course, Heineken is not the first multinational company to face trademark issues in China. Several high-profile U.S. companies, including Starbucks, Apple and Dell, have sought trademark protection in China only to discover that their marks have already been registered by an unrelated entity. Most recently, electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. ran into a roadblock expanding its car sales into China when it discovered a Chinese businessman already owns the “Tesla” trademark in China, including both the English and Chinese versions.

China recently approved a series of reforms intended to curb such problems. Most importantly, owners of “renowned” trademarks will be able to prohibit others from registering their trademarks or using similar ones, even if brand names are not yet registered. The potential financial penalties for trademark infringement will also increase to 3 million yuan (about 500,000 U.S. dollars), six times the previous limit.

Unfortunately for brand owners like Heineken, the changes don’t take effect until May 1, 2014.

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