On the heels of a revamp of its trademark system, many designers in China are still facing difficulty in getting their marks registered. According to a recent piece by the China Times, some marks, namely those "that pass for creative and edgy in Taiwan" are encountering sporadic resistance. For instance, the design of a skull was dismissed by Chinese authorities for being "scary" and for its "negative influence on society." Since launching just over three years ago, Taiwan's intellectual property protection authorities have ruled on nearly 500 marks, with "over 200 cases requiring the assistance of authorities, and some imitations have been rooted out in China." As a result, Taiwanese brands are baffled by the unpredictable cultural reasoning behind the mainland's trademark registration process.
Moral intervention in the area of trademark law is not completely unheard of in the U.S. US trademark law bans the registration of scandalous, deceptive and immoral trademarks. Specifically, the Lanham Act prohibits the registration of trademarks that, among other things, "may disparage... persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols, or bring them into contempt or disrepute."
The goods news for brands with existing trademarks in China: You can absolutely enforce your marks there. In fact, per a ruling last month, Gucci was able to prevent Guess from using its Quattro G-diamond pattern, a mark that Gucci deems to be confusingly similiar to its own interlocking-G's trademark. The Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court of China ruled in Gucci's favor in the lawsuit, which accused Guess of trademark infringement and unfair competition.
If this case sounds familiar, that's because it already happened in the U.S. The somewhat epic Gucci v. Guess lawsuit was heard in the Southern District of New York last year (a bit about the trial here), with Gucci winning the case but walking away with considerably less damages than it hoped for. The Italian design house then filed suit against Guess in several international courts, including one in China.