Alfred Dunhill announced it has won a major victory in a long-running trademark battle in China. In a ground-breaking decision handed down on 10 October, the luxury brand has been awarded RMB 10 million (USD 1.47 million) after the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court, Guangdong Province, ruled that rival menswear brand Danhuoli was guilty of both trademark infringement and unfair competition practice.

In a rare move for Chinese courts, the judge also deemed that the individual responsible for the company was personally liable for the infringement, giving extra teeth to the court’s decision and strengthening China’s growing reputation for intellectual property protection. The trademark infringement centered around Danhuoli’s illegal imitation of the ‘long tail mark’ of Alfred Dunhill’s globally recognized logo (see notes to editors, below).

Danhuoli had originally registered the ‘Danhuoli’ trademark in plain font but had for several years used the mark in a manner bearing striking similarities to Alfred Dunhill’s signature elongated lettering and black and white color palette. The budget clothes company had also established a shadow company named ‘Dunhill Group’ in Hong Kong, to manage corporate business activities for the brand. Alfred Dunhill had previously been successful in shutting down the shadow company in Hong Kong; however, it had continued to trade across the Chinese mainland. Danhuoli operates more than 200 franchisee stores across 61 cities in China, claiming to generate annual turnover of RMB 100m (USD 14.7m).

The case represents a landmark trademark victory in China for any global brand, given the scale of the damages awarded. The RMB 10 million awarded is significantly larger than the average ruling in trademark infringement cases in China. The ruling is another key milestone in China’s continued crackdown on IP infringement. Over the past decade, China has made significant strides in developing and enforcing a robust IP rights regime, bringing the Chinese IP landscape in line with other developed systems in the US and Europe. Alfred Dunhill was supported by international IP consultancy Rouse and its Chinese law firm partner, Lusheng Law Firm.

Commenting on the ruling, Andrew Maag, CEO at Alfred Dunhill said “Today’s ruling demonstrates Alfred Dunhill Ltd.’s unequivocal resolve in tackling infringement of our IP rights in China and globally. Our system of IP management and enforcement is second to none. With the support of Rouse and Lusheng Law Firm, we’ve secured a fair and proportionate ruling.”

Luke Minford, Global CEO of Rouse, said “This win for Alfred Dunhill is just reward for all their hard work protecting their brand in China. The decision should reinforce to other brand owners that China is finally getting serious about protecting foreign brands.”