A Chinese court has ruled that three domestic shoe makers must pay New Balance $1.5 million in damages and legal costs for infringing the American sportswear company’s signature slanting “N” logo. The court said that the three defendants behind the brand, New Boom, (Zheng Chaozhong, Xin Ping Heng Sporting Goods Limited Company and Bo Si Da Ke Trading Limited) had relied on the “malice of free-riding,” saying their actions led to “confusion by a large number of consumers,” according to the ruling, which was made last Tuesday but has not yet been made public. In the decision, the Suzhou Intermediate People’s Court, near Shanghai, ruled that the three defendants “seized market share from New Balance” and “drastically damaged the business reputation of New Balance.”
Trade marks protect a company’s brand identifier that consumers use to find its goods and services. Trade mark owners should remain vigilant for infringement and competing applications, and should take prevention action where necessary. Brand owners should remember that simple signs are often protectable as trade marks.
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Authors Claire Shomade and Chijioke Ude