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Trademark: Court rules in favor of Qualcomm
Date:2017-09-11
A court verdict on August 29 brought an end to a seven-year trademark conflict between a local maker of electronic products and a US chip maker, both of which sell their products under the Chinese name "Gao Tong" in the Chinese market.

Gotop, a Shanghai-based private business, lost the trademark infringement lawsuit against Qualcomm Inc, including a request for 100 million yuan ($15.2 million) in compensation, in Shanghai High People's Court, based on the conclusion that the business scope of the two companies, which both hold the Chinese name Gao Tong, don't overlap.

Gotop, founded in 1992, makes a variety of electronic products, such as video graphics cards, LCD touch screens and electronic tags for commodities on supermarket shelves. It also makes semiconductor chips for mobile phones and tablets.

Qualcomm, founded in 1985, which manufactures a range of electronics related to telecommunication, entered the Chinese market in 1994.

In 2010, the US company asked China's Trademark Office to revoke two Gao Tong trademarks registered by Gotop. Qualcomm was using the name to brand its telecom products and services.

The revocation request was approved because the trademarks had not been used for three years, which makes them invalid under Chinese law.

Gotop twice lost appeals against the decision.

It turned to the Shanghai High People's Court in April 2014, requesting that Qualcomm stop using four Gao Tong trademarks on various products and services, claiming its use could confuse consumers and render them unable to distinguish between the products of the two companies.

The trial opened in May last year. Gotop insisted during the trial that it had the right to make and sell products under both names of Gotop and Gao Tong. It also blamed Qualcomm for "maliciously" attempting to confuse the two companies and their products, which it claimed were in the same business category.

Qualcomm defended itself by saying its products were different from Gotop's, and that it did not violate anyone's intellectual property rights.

It also told the court that the Qualcomm name derives from "quality communication", which translates as gao tong in Chinese; hence it was merely coincidence that the two companies had the same Chinese name.

The court ruled in favor of Qualcomm.

"One of the trademarks that Gotop believed was infringed, for example, was where it used the trademark in telecom services and meant for general consumers, while the US company used it on mobile phone chips and meant for phone manufacturers," said Gao Yuan, a publicity officer for the court.

"The two products of the two companies have different functions, sales channels and target consumers. People won't think that there's a particular connection between the two based on general understanding."