BBC, the Greatest Broadcaster of the World, Sues Chinese Language Company for Trademark Infringement. 07.13.2020
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the oldest national broadcaster in the world, and the broadcaster with the largest number of employees in the world. It currently employs more than 22,000 employees. When part-time, flexible and fixed contract employees are also included, it employs a total number more than 35,000 employees.
Recently, the Beijing Haidian District People’s Court of China (hereinafter “the Haidian Court”) handed down a first-instance judgment on the BBC suing Beijing iYuba Technology Co., Ltd. (iYuba Company) for trademark infringement and unfair competition. It was determined that iYuba Company’s unauthorized use of the “BBC” logo constituted trademark infringement and unfair competition. It demanded that iYuba Company should stop the infringing activities and compensate BBC for economic losses and reasonable expenses totaling 1 million yuan (Approx. US$143,400).
BBC claims that it enjoys exclusive rights to three Chinese registered trademarks, including No.:G918771 “BBC” in various classes, and that the trademark in question and its company name “BBC” are very well known in China. iYuba Company has used the “BBC” logo on 2 websites, 1 WeChat public account, and 5 mobile applications developed by it to violate BBC’s exclusive right to use its registered trademarks; due to the close similarity between BBC’s authentic marks and the iYuba Company “BBC” logo, it has caused the public to mistakenly believe that the goods and services provided by iYuba Company have a specific connection with them and constitute unfair competition. Based on this, the BBC sued in the Haidian court, demanding that iYuba Company be stopped from conducting infringing activities, and compensate for economic losses and reasonable expenses of 1 million yuan (Approx. US$143,400).
iYuba Company argued that the BBC did not actually use the trademarks in mainland China, and its use of the words and logos did not infringe the plaintiff’s exclusive right to use the registered trademark. In addition, the services provided by BBC, namely, BBC’s radio, television, news, etc. are different from the English language content of iYuba, and there is no competition between them; moreover, “BBC” has not been commercially used as a business name in mainland China, which is the necessary prerequisite as stipulated by the Chinese unfair competition law.
According to the trial of the Haidian Court, the use of the word “BBC English” by iYuba Company on the respective website, WeChat public account, and mobile phone application software were all recognized as trademark use under the legal sense. In particular, a significant part of the relevant logo used by iYuba Company is “BBC”. The overall visual effect is similar to the trademarks involved, which constitutes an infringement of the exclusive rights of the registered trademarks involved. Although BBC is mainly engaged in broadcasting, it also provides language learners with audio and other materials, so there is a competitive relationship between the two. Therefore, the court ruled that the related actions of iYuba Company constituted unfair competition.
(Image of use of iYuba BBC logo as adopted from https://news.cgtn.com/news/)