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China's top court rules in favor of Dior in trademark case

  • China's top court overturned rulings by lower courts and rapped the local trademark office.
  • China said earlier this month it would introduce a system of punitive damages for IP infringements in a bid to strengthen enforcement for foreign firms.
  • The ruling comes as Beijing looks to play up its credentials for protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights, after being stung by criticism that it does not do enough.
The Christian Dior perfume, J'adore, on May 6, 2016.
Roberto Machado Noa | LightRocket | Getty Images
The Christian Dior perfume, J'adore, on May 6, 2016.

China's top court has ruled in favor of French fashion house Christian Dior, overturning rulings by lower courts and rapping the local trademark office for rejecting an application by the firm to register a perfume bottle trademark.

The ruling comes as Beijing looks to play up its credentials for protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights, after being stung by criticism, including from the United States, that it does not do enough to protect against IP infringement.

The United States has threatened China with tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods, in part to force Beijing to tackle what Washington calls theft of U.S. intellectual property and forced technology transfers from U.S. companies.

China said earlier this month it would introduce a system of punitive damages for IP infringements in a bid to strengthen IP enforcement for foreign firms and make sure offenders "pay a big price".

In a judgement on Thursday, also World Intellectual Property day, China's Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dior in a suit against the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board after a multi-year court battle.

The board wrongly rejected a 2015 application by Dior to register a trademark of its tear drop shaped J'adore perfume bottle, the top court said in a statement on its website. Two lower courts had ruled against Dior after an appeal.

Cui Guobin, an IP associate professor at China's Tsinghua University, told the China Daily newspaper the ruling showed the country would protect IP rights "no matter where it was from," but added there was still work to do.

"The ruling also implies that it is necessary to improve our trademark laws," he said.