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China Marketing

February 27th, 2010

2Most of the time, when the rights of a brand are infringed upon in China, manufacturers have taken a familiar-sounding name and made only a slight variation. They try to keep the name as close to the original as possible. Sometimes the efforts of these bootleggers make for some good comedy. I recall buying a suit in Hong Kong several years ago and having the tailor try to sell me on a material produced not by Ermenegildo Zegna but by Mario Zegna — presumably a cousin of the Italian designer.

Others have written about Chinese efforts to rebrand popular Western trademarks. One that I found particularly amusing was a slight twist on the “Esprit” brand. Pictured at the top here, this backpack has a logo that mimics the original but uses a brand that looks a lot more like like “Spit.” Companies worry that counterfeiters will dilute their brand, and this sort of example drives home that point.

Sometimes copied names are not similar at all, though. Consider the second and third pictures here. One is of a ball carrying the logo for Wilson Sporting Goods. This other is for a Guangzhou-based sporting company called Menlow.

wWilson versus Menlow? Without looking at the pictures, you’d think that the two names are nothing alike, but consider what’s been done: The scripted “W” from Wilson has been turned upside down so that it becomes the “M” in Menlow. They’ve done something similar with the “N,” changing it into a “W.” They preserved the tall, scripted “L,” and the net effect is a logo that from a distance and without too much thought looks quite a lot like the original!

5I’ve often passed a Menlow shop in Guangzhou and wondered what executives at Wilson would make of the logo. Do they even know that the logo or the copycat company exists? Would also be a little more than curious to see how a Chinese court would handle any claim of copyright infringement. My bet is that “Spit” might find trouble, but that Menlow would be allowed to carry on — even though its logo appears similar and it is also in the business of selling the same kinds of sporting goods.

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