London(UK): UK-based luxury brand Manolo Blahnik has secured the right to use its name in China after a protracted legal battle.
The high-end shoemaker hasn’t operated in China for more than 20 years after a local businessman trademarked his name. Fang Yuzhou registered the trademark “Manolo & Blahnik” and appeared to sell shoes under the brand.
Manolo Blahnik’s signature stilettos were made famous by celebrity clients and appeared in the hugely popular TV series Sex and the City.
In a statement on Tuesday, the company – named after its Spanish founder Manolo Blahnik – said it had won its case in the country’s highest court, China’s Supreme Court.
Manolo Blahnik had made several unsuccessful appeals since 2000 to use his name in China, one of the world’s largest consumer markets. The brand plans to start selling its shoes in China next year; Ms Blahnik told the Financial Times newspaper.
“We won’t be racing with a rocket into China but gently walking,” she said.
China has “first to file” rules around trademarks, which meant that Mr Fang’s claim to the name in 1999 was long viewed to be stronger than Manolo Blahnik’s, which was made later under Chinese law.
However, the law has since been amended to consider that filings could be made in “bad faith”. This has resulted in some high-profile victories for international brands against Chinese businesses.
Rieko Michishita, a partner at Bird & Bird, told the BBC that brands might use Manolo Blahnik’s case to prove “the bad faith of trademark squatters”.
However, she said some firms could struggle as “not all the cases can rely on a name right, and some brands might not have high reputations like Manolo Blahnik”.
Products under the British-based Manolo Blahnik were only available to Chinese consumers through third-party online platforms. Its regional stores were in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.