HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese people won’t be able to quench their thirst with a refreshing “face book” beverage, after the U.S. social networking company won a rare trademark victory against a local firm in China.
By contrast, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) last month lost its battle to prevent a domestic company from using the “iPhone” trademark on leather goods in China.
China’s intellectual property protections are often perceived as quite lax but they are steadily improving, lawyers say. The victory may offer a glimmer of hope for Facebook Inc (FB.O) in China, where its social network is not accessible and its business is mainly selling overseas advertising for Chinese companies.
The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court said the Zhongshan Pearl River Drinks application, filed in 2011, to label certain foods and beverages “face book” was an obvious act of copying and harmed fair market competition.
A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment. An employee at Pearl River Drinks said the case was not widely known at the company and that the staff member in charge of it was not available for comment.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives have made concerted efforts to woo Chinese officials. In March, Zuckerberg had a rare meeting with the country’s propaganda tsar, a suggestion of warming relations between Facebook and the government.
Zuckerberg frequently makes headlines in China, where he has achieved celebrity status by making speeches in Mandarin and sharing pictures of runs through noxious smog in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Facebook had previously objected to China’s Trademark Review and Adjudication Board twice but was unsuccessful, prompting its decision to take the case to court.
Reporting by Stella Tsang; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Edwina Gibbs