New Balance shoes (left), and Niubanlun shoes (right).
By Maurits Elen
Fujian province-based Niubanlun Sportswear Company and Shanghai Tibo Business Consulting Company are being taken to court by US-based sneaker manufacturer New Balance for using a similar trademark.
Although Niubanlun (纽班伦) is pleading its innocence and stating they’re legit and registered, their name perhaps sounds too much like “New Balance” for us to take them seriously. Niubanlun has been asked to destroy its stock and to cease selling their counterfeit goods, with a compensation fee of 500,000RMB ($78,721USD) at stake. The court has not yet released a verdict.
Shanghai Daily reports:
New Balance claimed Niubanlun used its former Chinese brand name that had been widely known on the Chinese market since 1995.
While New Balance started using a new Chinese brand name in 2003, it still used the former name on packaging in China until 2006.
But Niubanlun said the Chinese brand name was not registered by New Balance and could be used without infringement risk.
The Chinese name of New Balance is Xinbailun (新百伦), which is a combination of direct translation, with xin (新) meaning new, and bailun (百伦) being a transliteration of balance.
There’s also a faint whiff of big city glamour in the shoes as well, with Niubanlun (纽班伦) also referencing New York and London, in addition to its resemblance to the Massachusetts-based shoe company. Niu (纽) and lun (伦) are the first two characters in the Chinese names for New York (纽约/Niuyue) and London (伦敦/Lundun).
For an article from the New York Times examining the delicate science of rebranding companies for the Chinese market, click here.