China’s latest shoe brand, Uncle Martian, looks like it might face some legal problems from the company that it is trying to blatantly rip off.
Last week, pictures from the company’s launch gala went viral with netizens noticing that the new Chinese sportswear company’s logo looks suspiciously similar to Under Armour’s trademark.
A 20-year-old American sportswear brand that has recently been enjoying some unprecedented success in the Chinese market, Under Armour has noticed as well, and it isn’t happy. In a statement emailed to Fortune, the company vowed to pursue “all business and legal courses of actions” to stop Uncle Martian from ever getting off the ground:
Under Armour is aware of the Uncle Martian launch event. Uncle Martian’s uses of Under Armour’s famous logo, name, and other intellectual property are a serious concern and blatant infringement. Under Armour will vigorously pursue all business and legal courses of action.
Uncle Martian’s parent company is Fujian-based Tingfei Long Sporting Goods, a 25-year-old sports shoe manufacturer that has specialized in manufacturing off-brand sneakers for years, but now appears poised for bigger and better things, riding on the wave of Under Armour’s growing success in China.
Under Armour’s name and logo are registered in China, as well as other international markets. We’ll have to wait and see if that fact helps the company in litigation to come.
China is infamous for its disregard of international copyright laws — with copycat sphinxes, talent shows and luxury brands — but it’s hard to blame them when the strategy is often such a success. Last year, a company that began as a Segway copycat actually bought Segway, and then got financed by Xiaomi.
Meanwhile, Chinese courts make punishing these “copycat brands” a difficult task. Currently, China’s top court is deciding whether to reopen a high-profile copyright case involving Michael Jordan and Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports.
Last year, a Beijing court dismissed Jordan’s claim that the Chinese company was infringing on his trademark. Qiaodan (乔丹) is the transliteration of the NBA star’s surname in Chinese. The company’s products also incorporate the number 23 and a silhouette of a basketball player which bears more than a passing resemblance to the iconic “Jumpman” logo used by Nike in its Air Jordan line.
However, last August, the court ruled that “Jordan” is a common surname used by Americans and the logo was in the shape of a person with no facial features, making it “hard” for consumers to identify it as Jordan.
This should be interesting.