Dell Computer just lost a trademark infringement lawsuit in China. I certainly hope that case is never cited as an example of China not enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) because it is not (h/t to Asia Business Intelligence and to the IP Dragon). The case was decided in Beijing and we are looking to see if we can acquire a copy of the decision.
Dell lost and, from what I have been able to garner about the case, deservedly so. Dell claimed that a mark pronounced “De er” being infringed on a Dell mark, pronounced “Dai er.” The two marks neither use the same characters nor are they pronounced the same. On top of this, the Chinese company registered its mark in 1997. Dell sought to counter all of this by arguing it was so famous, it had to be an infringement. The court rejected this argument.
Bottom Line: If you want your trademarks (or words that sound like your trademarks) protected in China, the rules could not be more simple: register them. If your name is Dell and you want both “De er” and “Dai er” protected, register both of them. Doing so is exponentially cheaper and more reliable than pursuing a trademark infringement lawsuit.