China: law firm brand tussle
According to London based newspaper, The Lawyer, both law firms have made claims to the same Chinese brand, and have repeatedly accused each other of using it unfairly. In a recent complaint, the Chinese practice –known as Kingda in English –accused the Americans of damaging its reputation through creating negative publicity.
Jones Day registered its brand with the Chinese Ministry of Justice in 2002, a year before Guangdong-based Kingda was established.
The dispute erupted in 2005, when Kingda filed an application with China’s State Trademark Bureau to register the brand as its trademark. Jones Day objected, claiming that Kingda had copied its Chinese brand. Kingda responded by claiming that the brand is in fact influenced by a Chinese saying meaning to ‘make concerted efforts to achieve a common goal’.
The trademark application was unsuccessful, despite an appeal by Kingda to the regulatory body. A 2010 application by Jones Day to use the branding as part of its ‘One Firm Worldwide’ trademark was also denied.
In 2011, Jones Day filed a complaint with the Department of Justice in Guangdong province in an attempt to persuade Kingda to change its Chinese name. The Americans maintained the complaint was supported by Chinese law, which, according to the Measures for the Administration of Names of Law Firms, dictates that Chinese law firms cannot use names already registered by international practices.
The recent developments revolve around a lawsuit filed by Kingda in May, demanding a public apology from Jones Day, and for the firm to stop filing complaints. A hearing was scheduled for the end of July, but has been postponed to give Jones Day time to prepare a response.
One of Kingda’s lawyers described the case as ‘unprecedented’ in the legal sector, although there has been a recent spate of branding disputes between Chinese and international companies in other sectors. The lawyer commented that Kingda has grown to be successful, and it would be ‘unfair to ask us to change’ its brand.