Matsushita wages war on its shadow

Hong Kong

Matsushita, the owner of the PANASONIC trademark, has launched an extensive anti-counterfeiting campaign involving numerous raids against 15 parties in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Foshan, Jiangmen and Shunde in the People's Republic of China (PRC). A certain PRC party incorporated a 'shadow' company in Hong Kong adopting the famous mark as part of the company name (ie, HK Panasonic Appliances Int'l Group Limited) without the authorization of Matsushita and then, boldly, began manufacturing and selling goods in the PRC using the PANASONIC mark.

As is typical with shadow companies, this particular company has no physical presence or actual business operations in Hong Kong, and all of its shareholders and directors are Chinese residents. This shadow company even had the audacity to file trademark applications in China incorporating a deviation of the word 'Panasonic'.

Owners of famous trademarks are advised to take the following steps to prevent similar infringements of their marks:

  • Monitor Hong Kong's Companies Register and petition the registrar to have any such shadow company change its name or be struck from the register for being defunct;

  • Explore court actions for trademark infringement; passing off; attempting to pass off; or assisting, enabling or procuring others to pass off;

  • Subscribe to a surveillance service that will watch for applications in the PRC and Hong Kong to register famous marks, so that the applications can be opposed;

  • Take vigorous actions, such as administrative raids, to stop the manufacture and sale in the PRC of infringing goods; and

  • Publicize the action results in order to send a strong message that counterfeiting will not be tolerated.

Yvonne Chua, Wilkinson & Grist, Hong Kong

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