Penfolds has convinced a court in China to force a squatter to give back its brand

Dale De La Rey/AFP/Getty Images

A court in China has found that Treasury Wine Estates is the owner of Ben Fu, the Chinese name of its flagship Penfolds brand.

Ben Fu is the most widely recognised wine brand in China. Penfolds wine, which has Grange among its labels, is marketed as a high quality brand in China.

The High People’s Court in Beijing found that a Chinese man who registered Ben Fu in 2009 had “failed to demonstrate any genuine use of the trademark for wine or related business activities”.

Robert Foye, Treasury Wine Estates managing director in Asia, said: “Protecting the integrity of our historic wine brands against trademark piracy is critical. We have never wavered in our commitment to defend our position as the rightful owner of the Ben Fu trademark in China, and we are absolutely thrilled with this decision.”

IP Australia, the administrator of Australia’s intellectual property rights system, says the decision is great for Penfolds and all international companies doing business in China.

“It is a good reminder for all companies in China and those planning on entering the market, to make sure their IP rights have been registered,” says David Bennett, IP Australia’s China Counsellor based in Beijing. “It’s important to do this as early as possible, and to always ensure your IP rights have been renewed.”

He says IP rights protected in Australia are only valid in Australia.

“Australian businesses and individuals need to be aware of China’s ‘first-to-file’ rule,” he says.

“This is because if the company’s trade marks are left unprotected someone else may register that IP. The court’s decision shows China’s respect for IP, but making sure your IP is protected as early as possible is always the best approach.”

Not all foreign companies have been winning back the rights to their trademarks.

Apple in May has lost a trademark court battle in China. The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court ruled in favour of Xintong Tiandi Technology, allowing the continued use of the name IPHONE.

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