By Bridget O’Donnell
In China, Eminem isn’t just a rapper — he’s also apparently endorsing a Chinese brand of whiskey.
Thanks to China’s lax trademark laws, it’s relatively easy for Chinese entrepreneurs to use popular American brands and celebrity names to sell their products.
A recent Los Angeles Times outlines this trademark-squatting phenomenon. It isn’t difficult to register these brands in China because, as the Times’ David Pierson notes, trademarks “generally are awarded to those who are first to register them with government authorities.”
And this free-for-all system is entirely legal.
Plenty of other questionable brand tie-ins have emerged from China in the last few years, including an Oprah Winfrey clothing line, Facebook condoms, Obama “Blockberries,” and, yes, even Yao Ming sanitary napkins.
Though the Chinese basketball superstar was able to successfully block the company from using his name, other celebrities and famous brands haven’t been as successful.
The questionable Qiaodan logo.
But with two high-profile trademark complaints in recent weeks, that could change. Apple, for example, is currently fighting charges that it stole its well-known iPad name from a Chinese-based computer company. And basketball legend Michael Jordan recently sued Qiaodan Sports for using his name and a logo bearing striking similarities to his Jumpman logo for profit.
However, it’s still an uphill battle. According to Pierson, international companies can block Chinese companies from using their name only if they can prove their brand is “too well-known for the Chinese trademark owners to have registered it in good faith.” And for entreprenuers like Zhen Yongqu, owner of the Eminem-endorsed whiskey, defense against the claim can be as simple as saying, “I’ve never heard of Eminem.”
Though his company’s logo, which is nearly identical to the one that appears on the Motown rapper’s albums, may say otherwise.