Protection of the trademark often turns into blackmail, extortion and attempt to choke off the competitors.

The company name and the trademark are the main symbols of any company. As in the case of human names, they let consumers know with whom they deal and what product or service they can receive. Some trademarks became so popular that they began to be used completely apart from the company itself – the xerox (from the name of the Xerox company) became a synonym of a copy machine, and the jeep (from the Chrysler Group's Jeep) replaced the term "off-roader". But if human names can be repeated (so many Maries and Johns appear in our surroundings), then companies consider trademarks to be their property, and any hint of repetition or allusion is an attempt on this property.


Business has the right to protect its trademark from the use by third parties. But sometimes they realize this right even in cases when allusions to their trademark are visible only to them. And sometimes young startups, just starting to work, become victims of either large monopolies that are afraid of competition, or little-known regional companies that use judicial precedent and demand compensation for damage.


House of cards may collapse


The world-famous television series about the political game in Washington, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, first appeared on the screens of Netflix video service in 2013. In parallel, the producer of the series, Media Rights Capital, tried to register the trademark in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but in vain. After two and a half years, the media found out why they could not register it: a little-known company from Massachusetts D2 staked out this name for the designation of goods and services from the entertainment sector back in 2009. And although the “House of Cards” all over the world is a series about a quirky US presidential candidate, the lawsuit between Media Rights Capital and D2 is still ongoing.


Transnational giants vs. regional players


Large corporations with a full staff of lawyers, attorneys and patent specialists often go with lawsuits for small producers operating in one country or region, forbidding them to use not only trademarks, but also similar color symbols. For example, Retail Royalty Company, the parent company of clothing manufacturer American Eagle, filed a local retailer, Pantaloons, with the High Court of Delhi (India). The American manufacturer indicates in his lawsuit that the brand and logo of the Indian company are very similar to the American Eagle Outfitters logo, which depicts an eagle in flight. According to lawyers, small companies should be especially careful when choosing a trademark, logo, slogan or brand, as large international companies carefully guard their market share and they sue at the slightest suspicion. On average, trademark litigation costs companies between $ 250,000 and $ 750,000.


David vs. Goliath


The victims of large corporations are not only regional companies, but also beginning startups. The globally integrated provider of financial services and the subsidiary of the German stock exchange Deutsche Börse – STOXX – jealously guards its trademark, which in practice turns into lawsuits against any companies whose name is only partially consonant with “stox”.

So, one of the latest STOXX lawsuits was against a cryptocurrency startup Bistox. It is curious that the Swiss Federal Institute for Intellectual Property registered both the STOXX trademark and the BISTOX trademark without finding contradictions in the registration process.

It is worth noting that international practice regarding consonant brands is not on the side of STOXX. Thus, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) considers the use of a trademark illegal only if it can lead to misleading the user. In other words, only those trademarks that are so similar that they can be confused (confusingly similar) are considered to be a violation.

So far, claims are being discussed in the pretrial order, but Bistox has announced plans to protect its trademark, which was issued in accordance with Swiss law.


China guards the market


A special situation with the protection of trademarks has developed on the Chinese market. In contrast to other regions and countries where small and medium businesses become victims of large transnational companies, foreign companies in China often face lawsuits from little-known and sometimes not at all doing business companies that have registered a brand in their country that is similar to that owned by a foreign company. Thus, a major Australian wine producer Penfolds – Treasury Wine Estates – when trying to enter the Chinese market with wine called Ben Fu received a subpoena from Chinese citizen Li Daozhi. Australian media found out that Li is a well-known hunter of well-known wine brands, who is not for the first time suing a foreign wine producer. For example, a year before the litigation with the Australian company, Li won a lawsuit against the French wine producer Castel, which the Chinese court ordered to pay 33.73 million yuan (about $5 million) for using someone else’s trading name.


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