Unilever owns trademark registrations in China for OMO and its Chinese equivalent mark (Figure 1), designating laundry preparations and other goods in class 3.

Figure 1: Chinese equivalent mark of OMO

Through decades of use and promotion, Unilever's OMO marks have built up strong brand awareness among Chinese consumers.

On 5 February 2013, a local company, Wuxi Lian Hua Daily Commodities Technology Co, Ltd (Lian Hua), filed trademark application No. 12156179 (Figure 2) (the mark), designating "[g]ermicidal burners; Heating apparatus, electric, among others" in class 11.

Figure 2: Lian Hua's mark

Lian Hua obtained registration of the mark on 6 September 2014. Lian Hua also used a stylised form of the mark, surrounded by a water splash device, which highly resembled Unilever's OMO marks (see a comparison of both parties' products in Figure 3).

Figure 3: Unilever's OMO laundry detergent (on the left) and Lian Hua's electrical heated mosquito repellent (on the right)

On 28 February 2018, Unilever initiated an invalidation action against the mark before the China National Intellectual Property Administration, but to no avail. In 2019, Unilever brought an administrative proceeding before the Beijing Intellectual Property Court.


The Beijing Intellectual Property Court opined as follows:

  • OMO's Chinese mark had become well known in China before the filing of the mark.
  • The designated goods of the mark were associated with OMO's reputable products, considering their overlapping function, sales channels and target consumers.
  • The mark was identical to OMO's Chinese mark and, if used on the designated goods, could give rise to its association with Unilever's OMO marks by a consumer. This would be detrimental to Unilever's interests in its well-known trademark.

Based on the above findings, the Court ruled to invalidate the mark on 19 December 2019, citing article 13.3 of the Trademark Law. Lian Hua later appealed before the Beijing High Court, which upheld the decision of the Trial Court on 26 August 2021.


In a 2016 case,(1) China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) elucidated as follows:

To determine whether the applicant is acting in bad faith, all relevant factors must be taken into consideration . . . . The mere fact of being well-known is insufficient. The court shall consider the subjective intention, the objective behaviour and all relevant factors.

This means that an assessment of the applicant's bad faith shall be based not only on the circumstances existing at the date of filing, but also on its behaviour after the date of filing.

Lian Hua's registered trademark was a slavish copy of Unilever's well-known OMO trademark. This exhibits Lian Hua's bad faith at the time of filing. In terms of the actual use of the litigious trademark, Lian Hua mimicked the font, the colour and the background pattern (ie, the water splash) of Unilever's OMO laundry detergent, which substantiates its bad faith after the date of filing.

Article 11.3 of the Beijing High People's Court Guidelines for the Adjudication of Cases Involving Granting and Affirmation of Trademark Right enumerates the elements to be considered in granting protection over a well-known trademark:

The protection scope of a well-known trademark shall be determined by taking comprehensively into account this trademark's distinctiveness, reputation, the extent of similarity between the trademarks, the designated goods, to what extent the relevant public of the trademarks overlaps and the extent of attention of the relevant public, the subjective state of the applicants of the litigious trademark, among others. (Emphasis added.)

The Beijing High Court's guidelines align with the SPC's reasoning in the 2016 case that bad faith can be proved by examining facts that take place after the date of filing of the litigious trademark.

This is the first judicial well-known trademark recognition of the Chinese equivalent of Unilever's OMO mark. The recognition will be conducive to Unilever's future trademark enforcement action in China.

For further information on this topic please contact Ye Cai at Wanhuida Intellectual Property by telephone (+86 10 6892 1000) or email ([email protected]). The Wanhuida Intellectual Property website can be accessed at www.wanhuida.com.


(1) (2016) Zui Gao Fa Xing Zai No. 13 (The Procter & Gamble Company v TRAB and Shantou Weishida Cosmetics Co, Ltd).