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Chinese Intellectual Property Agency Punished for Malicious Epidemic-Related Trademark Filings

The Chaoyang District Market Supervision Bureau (in Beijing) has fined Beijing Yijie Shunda International Intellectual Property Agency Co., Ltd. 100,000 RMB (about $14,000 USD) for the malicious filing of trademarks related to the coronavirus epidemic.  The agency applied on behalf of two clients for trademarks for 火神山 (literally, Vulcan Mountain) and 雷神山 (literally, Thor Mountain), the names of two front line hospitals in Wuhan treating patients infected with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 disease.

Specifically, the agency violated Article 19, paragraph 3 of the Chinese Trademark Law, which reads, “Where a trademark agency knows or should know that the trademark applied for registration by the client belongs to the circumstances stipulated in Articles 4, 15 and 32 of this Law, it shall not accept its entrustment.”  Accordingly, per Article 17 of Interim Provisions on Administrative Penalty Procedures for Market Supervision and Management, the Chaoyang District Market Supervision Bureau opened an investigation on March 7, 2020.  On March 11, 2020, the Chaoyang District Market Supervision Bureau, per Article 68 (3) of the Trademark Law ordered the agency to stop the illegal acts immediately, gave a warning, and imposed the maximum fine allowed per this Article. The Bureau will also transfer the case to relevant local bureaus for further investigation of the applicants. The penalty decision is attached below.

New reports indicate that bureaus in other jurisdictions are also investigating and have punished agencies that have violated the law with similar trademark applications.

These are some of the first enforcements of the penalties in the amended trademark law against IP agencies.  Hopefully, this willingness to enforce will also deter IP agencies in assisting squatters applying for trademarks on foreign brands in bad faith.

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Principal, and Director of the China Intellectual Property Practice

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