In 1999 Chinese automobile manufacturer The Geely Group applied to register Chinese mark 陸虎("lu hu” in Pinyin) in respect of, among other things, motorcycle and automobiles in China. The mark was registered in 2001.
Following an unsuccessful cancellation action at the Trademark Review and Administration Board (TRAB), British car manufacturer Land Rover filed an appeal to the People’s Intermediate Court. The case was heard on 17th March 2011.
Land Rover claimed that 陸虎 is the Chinese transliteration for its well-known automotive brand LAND ROVER, being the only Chinese trademark that the company has used in Mainland China since the early 1990s. Thus, this trademark is widely known by Chinese consumers. It argued that Geely, a manufacturer in the same industry, could not possibly be unaware of the use of the 陸虎 brand by Land Rover, but still applied to register the 陸虎 trademark to pre-empt Land Rover’s registration of the mark. Land Rover claimed that such registration would cause economic disorder within the automotive industry as well as confusion among the public, and thus should be prohibited by law. It argued that the decision of the TRAB had been made erroneously and asked the court to order the TRAB to issue a new ruling.
In addition to the subject registration disputed before the court, Geely has applied to register the 陸虎 mark in respect of, among other things, automobiles in Sub-classes 1201, 1202 and 1203 under two applications; such applications are currently under opposition. Similarly, Land Rover’s application for the same mark in respect of, among other things, bicycles in Sub-classes 1201, 1205, 1206, 1209 and 1210 is under opposition. Thus, it remains to be seen which company can ultimately claim ownership of the 陸虎 mark in China.