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China’s Black People’s Toothpaste (Darlie) to be Renamed HYMULA?

In response to Black Lives Matters, Colgate Palmolive announced in June 2020 the rebranding of its controversial Chinese toothpaste 黑人牙膏 (Black People’s Toothpaste), also known as Darlie (previously Darkie) in English.  Darlie is one of the top-selling toothpaste brands in China with a 17% market share.  Perhaps recognizing the irreparability of the brand, it appears that Colgate, and its affiliate 好维股份有限公司 (Hawley and Hazel (BVI) Co. Ltd.), may be going for a complete rebrand (instead of a tweaking) based on recent Chinese trademark filings. As explained to me by Tianqi (Bonnie) Jiang of Simone IP Services Hawley has filed multiple Chinese trademark applications for “HYMULA” and “卫觉公式” roughly meaning “hygiene taste formula.”

Thai version of Darkie Toothpaste from 1988.
Current registered Chinese TM 3551789 for Darlie toothpaste.

Hawley filed 6 Chinese trademarks applications: 3 for 卫觉公式 and 3 for HYMULA in classes 3, 5, and 21 on June 12, 2020. No information is yet available on goods/services and the applications are still awaiting examination.

Class 3, per the Nice classification, covers non-medicated cosmetics and toiletry preparations; non-medicated dentifrices; perfumery, essential oils; bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use; cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations. Class 5 covers pharmaceuticals, medical and veterinary preparations; sanitary preparations for medical purposes; dietetic food and substances adapted for medical or veterinary use, food for babies; dietary supplements for human beings and animals; plasters, materials for dressings; material for stopping teeth, dental wax; disinfectants; preparations for destroying vermin; fungicides, herbicides. Class 21 covers household or kitchen utensils and containers; cookware and tableware, except forks, knives and spoons; combs and sponges; brushes, except paintbrushes; brush-making materials; articles for cleaning purposes; unworked or semi-worked glass, except building glass; glassware, porcelain and earthenware.

Darlie toothpaste continues to be marketed as is in China for now (and surprisingly, on Amazon in the U.S.).    Presumably, Hawley will launch the rebrand only if the trademarks are registered.  However, there is no confirmation that HYMULA is actually the new brand and instead may be simply a new line of products.  In addition, there may be additional alternative trademark applications filed that are not yet public that could be used instead for rebranding.

The potential rebranding of Darlie toothpaste follows a wave of announcements of U.S. rebrandings of offensive stereotypical consumer products including Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup and Uncle Ben’s rice.

The South China Morning Post has a good history of the Darlie brand here.

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Author:
Director of China Intellectual Property Practice

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