China grapples with trademark infringement—of its own brands

PEPPA PIG was the target of China’s online censors earlier this year when the pink porcine character for toddlers was co-opted by unruly Chinese teenagers as a subversive symbol. But the popular piglet is also the object of another sort of unwanted attention: the registration of trademarks related to the brand by foreign “squatters”, who hope to benefit as counterfeiters or competitors, or to extract a hefty fee when its true owners lay claim to it. The cartoon character’s British owners said last month that more than 100 Chinese firms have put in applications for Peppa Pig trademarks, some made years ago, thus in effect blocking its own.

China’s “first-to-file” trademark law (as opposed to the “first-to-use” rule in America and Britain, based on the sale of the good or service in question) means that speedy filings by locals can stop original brand-owners selling in China. Because registrations are cheap, trademark “trolls” file by the hundred. Dozens of foreign firms have been stung, from...



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