China protects English Premier League's lion logo

England's FA Premier League has got the better of a mainland Chinese rival in a trademark dispute over the football league's crowned lion logo. On 27 December, the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court upheld an earlier decision by China's trademark watchdog that a Chinese sporting events company should stop using its logo because it was too similar to that of the FA Premier League. Xiangshi Celebration Service Company in Xuzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, had registered a lion image as its trademark in 1999. The lion closely resembled that used by the FA`Premier League, except that the Xiangshi lion had no football under its right paw.

When The Football Association of England entered the market by setting up a company in the Peoples Republic of China in 2000, the football body sought to register the FA Premier League's logo, a crowned lion, with the Trademark Review and Appraisal Board (TRAB), under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. The board initially rejected the application because of its similarity to the Xiangshi lion and The Football Association appealed the board's decision in 2001, on the grounds that the Xiangshi lion imitated the league's lion. The board accepted the claim and revoked Xiangshi's lion logo last year.

TRAB officials said the FA Premier League lion was unique and was protected by the Copyright Law. They also said that because the FA Premier League logo had been broadcast in China via television for many years, Xiangshi might have seen the lion before it registered its logo. Xiangshi sued the TRAB and The Football Association, claiming that its logo was different from the football league's logo and that the company had developed the logo itself. Xiangshi also claimed The Football Association could not provide any evidence that the FA Premier League logo had been seen anywhere in China before 1999.

Su Xiaonan, lawyer for The Football Association, welcomed the verdict. "The Chinese Government has done much to protect the IPR (intellectual property rights) of foreign firms operating in the country in recent years," Su told Wu Jiao of China Daily after the ruling.