New Balance has won a major legal battle against one of China’s famed knockoff brands.
Last month, the sportswear giant was handed a victory against Fujian-based New Barlun Co. Ltd., which came under fire for a slanted “N” logo that bore a resemblance to New Balance’s own “N” symbol. In a decision dated Jan. 5, the Shanghai Huangpu District Court ordered New Barlun and distributor Shanghai Shiyi Trade Co. Ltd. to pay damages of RMB 25 million (or $3.87 million at current exchange) to New Balance.
The judgment, which was first reported by The Financial Times, is being described as one of the biggest ever awarded to a foreign brand in a Chinese trademark case. The London-based publication added that local “copycats” typically end up laying less than RMB 1 million (or just under $155,000).
“The New Barlun victory represents years of hard work in the fight against parasite and counterfeit brands,” Dan McKinnon, senior counsel of intellectual property and global brand protection at New Balance, said in a statement to FN. “The win is encouraging on two fronts; the increased level of damages should help act as a further deterrent to future bad actors, and also serves as a notice of the increased power of our ‘N’ trademark in China and beyond.”
According to the court, New Barlun and Shanghai Shiyi Trade’s manufacturing and distribution of the shoes marked with the “N” symbol constituted an infringement against New Balance’s trademark rights. The two defendants were said to have benefited from New Balance’s popularity and reputation in China, as well as acted in bad fair because they failed to cease their infringing actions even after the court had issued an interim injunction order.
What’s more, the court held distributor Shanghai Lusha Fashion Co. Ltd. jointly liable for RMB 100,000 (or nearly $15,500). The defendants still have the right to appeal as the judgment has yet to take effect.
New Balance’s trademark case dates back to 2016, when the American shoe maker sued dozens of Chinese firms — including New Barlun (also known in the country as Niu Ba Lun Co. Ltd.) — for allegedly copying its “N” trademark. Last year in April, the Shanghai Pudong District Court ruled in favor of New Balance, awarding RMB 10.8 million (or $1.53 million at the time) for unfair competition.
This story has been updated with a statement from New Balance.