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Hogan Lovells secures a key trademark decision for ZF

26 October 2018

26 October 2018 - Hogan Lovells has recently obtained a remarkable trademark decision for its client ZF and its affiliate ZF TRW Automotive Holdings ("ZF TRW") before China's highest court, the Supreme People's Court ("SPC").

The case revolved around ZF TRW's opposition action against a trademark application for its brand "TRW," filed by a trademark squatter. The China Trademark Office (CTMO) initially rejected the opposition claiming that the designated goods of the marks are unrelated and that "TRW" is not a well-known mark. The case was appealed to the SPC.

In its final judgement, released on 1 August 2018, the SPC held that "TRW" is a well-known mark for "braking system and safety system." On the basis of the ample evidence submitted, the SPC concluded that ZF, with its trademark “TRW,” is one of the world's largest automobile parts providers and that the "TRW" brand has enjoyed a high reputation and had become well-known to the relevant consumers in China even before 2004 when the opposed mark was filed. In addition, the SPC also held that the designated goods of the trademark in dispute, i.e. "engine belt; belts for motors and engines," are related to the designated goods "auto parts" of "TRW." Therefore, the SPC revoked the previous decisions, allowed the opposition, and remanded the case to the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB) for a new decision.

This is a significant victory for ZF, especially considering the high evidentiary and legal thresholds generally imposed by the Chinese courts for the recognition of well-known trademarks. This victory, and the recognition of "TRW" as a well-known trademark, could facilitate the further protection and enforcement of ZF’s brands in China going forward.

Dietmar Kellner, Senior IP Manager of ZF comments, "We are very pleased with the decision. We consider this case as another positive message on proper intellectual property protection in China."

Helen Xia, IP partner in Hogan Lovells' Shanghai IP Agency, comments: "This is an important decision for our client, and a good example of how perseverance, efficient evidence collection, and good preparation in IP litigation in China can pay off, and bring about the best results for our client."

The lawyers advising ZF TRW on the subject matter include: Helen Xia (Partner, Shanghai IP Agency), Jonathan Liang (Counsel, Hogan Lovells Fidelity), Linda Huang (Associate, Hogan Lovells Fidelity).

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