Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Honour of The Great Bruce Lee 李小龍: Fight For Trademark Protection in China and U.S.

Today it is 70 years ago that the great Bruce Lee 李 (Li=Lee)小(Xiao=little) 龍 (Long=dragon) to whom IP Dragon feels related in spirit, was born in San Francisco. He grew up in Hong Kong until his teens, then went back to the U.S. and became the biggest martial arts filmstar ever in both Hollywood and Hong Kong. In this blog posting IP Dragon is looking from an IP related angle to honour the martial arts hero.

In China and the U.S. there is a lot of work to do for the heirs of Bruce Lee to protect his name and image.

In China
The China Daily reports that the name of Bruce Lee in Chinese 李小龍 has been registered as a trademark for coffee, dumplings, candy, instant noodles, ice cream, tooth brushes and past and home appliances. The State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) stated that the right to use Bruce Lee's Chinese and English name should belong to his heirs, because otherwise the public will be misguided. According to the China Daily the SAIC is addressing the matter and the applications that are now being processes will be rejected. Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee's daughter, who is the leading the Bruce Lee Enterprises, is trying to protect and enforce the Bruce Lee trademark. She found unauthorised use in Changsha, Shanghai, Qingdao and Shunde (see below). Ms Lee does not mind that Bruce Lee's picture is used at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, but she will not have his image used for fast food chains. Read the China Daily article here.

In Shunde, a city in the south of Guangdong is the ancestral house of the Lee family. The city built "Li Xiao Long (李小龍) paradise", a giant memorial hall devoted to Lee's life, martial arts and acting career. The Straits Times wrote that the Southern Daily newspaper reported that Shannon Lee is trying to let the local government hand over the trademark name of 李小龍. Read more in the Straits Times.

In the U.S.
The Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC, filed a suit at the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana, Indiana Division, complaint for damages and injunctive relief against Marc Ecko Enterprises, A.V.E.L.A., Inc., Leo Valencia, Urban Outfitters, Inc., and Target Corporation for unfair competition and trademark infringement under federal statutes (Lanham Act), with pendent claims for common-law trademark infringement and unauthorised commercial use of statutory (California and Indiana's right of publicity statutes) and common law right of publicity, because they used a picture of Bruce Lee in clothing.

The defendants claimed that the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana lacked the personal jurisdiction and that it was the improper venue. The demanded that the case was transferred to the the Southern District of New York or the District of Nevada. Judge William T. Judge decided to transfer the case to the Southern District of New York. Read more at the site of FindACase here.

I am positive that the daughter of Bruce Lee has also genetic advantages in fighting legal battles and she has the philosophical edge of her father who said:

"Using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation"
Bruce Lee, 27 November 1940 - 20 July 1973

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