California - French fashion house Hermes International has recently lost a trademark infringement lawsuit against a Chinese company that registered a similar trademark. A Chinese court has also rejected Hermes' bid to register the Chinese translation of the famous French name.
Since 1997, Hermes has reportedly tried to convince China's trademark board to cancel a trademark held by Dafeng Garment Factory, a menswear company from southern China. That company had trademarked the term "Aimashi," which is the Chinese translation of Hermes. Despite registering the Hermes brand in China in 1977, the company reportedly did not register its brand name in Chinese at the same time. Ruling against Hermes, the Chinese court said that the French company had not provided evidence that the "Aimashi" trademark had been registered by the menswear company illegally or that the trademark was well known among consumers in China.
Roughly translated, the Hermes version of Ai Ma Shi means "officials who love horses," a tribute to the iconic company's equine origins. Dafeng's version of Aimashi, however features a rare Chinese character, which is part of the word agate -a type of crystal- and is often used for translating the names Mary and Emma into Chinese.
Hermes is not the only foreign company to face challenges in defending its trademark in China. Apple Computer recently lost the rights to use the "iPad" trademark in China after losing its trademark infringement battle to Proview Technologies. Earlier this month, former Chicago Bulls point guard Michael Jordan filed a trademark infringement complaint with a Chinese sportswear company for using a trademark that is the Chinese translation of his name. Although Jordan has never registered the Chinese translation of his moniker in China, Chinese law prohibits companies from freely using the names of celebrities, even if those people have not registered trademarks for their famous names.
Established in Paris in 1837, Hermes specializes in fine leather goods and handbags, lifestyle accessories, perfume, luxury goods, and ready to wear apparel. Known around the world among high fashion brand-conscious consumers, the rejected bid to register its name in Chinese will not likely affect Hermes' popularity or brand recognition among fashionistas in China.