In China, several laws regulate the protection of Geographical Indications (GIs).
On the one hand, general provisions are provided in the Civil Law. In its Article 123, GIs are listed among the intellectual property rights to be protected in China. Likewise, the Chinese Unfair Competition Law and the Chinese Product Quality Law prohibit misleading practices as to the true origin of products. Specific provisions, including registration procedures, are contained in the Chinese Trademark Law (which includes collective and certification marks specifically conceived for GIs), the Provisions on the Protection of Geographical Indication Products as well as in the Measures for the Administration of Geographical Indications of Agricultural Products. To better protect and enforce GIs in China, it is recommended to register foreign names under the above-mentioned laws.
Under certain circumstances, though, the practice has shown that GIs simply recognized in their country of origin can obtain protection in China. The “Romanee-Conti” case is interesting in this respect. In 2016, Fujian Longwang Trading Ltd. had filed an application for the trademark “罗曼尼·康帝” in class 33 (Luomanni Kangdi is the Chinese transliteration of Romanee-Conti). After the application was approved, the French National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO) filed an invalidation at the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB). The TRAB ruled that Romanee-Conti was not registered as a GI in China and, as a result, the trademark application at issue did not violate the norms of the Chinese Trademark Law. The INAO then contested that decision before a national court. In 2018, the Beijing Intellectual Property Court ruled in first instance that the trademark application “罗曼尼·康帝” violates Article 16 of the Chinese Trademark Law. The court ruled that Romanee-Conti is a French GI and is known among relevant consumers in China as a wine from a specific region in France. The Court stated that, in such cases, it is important to evaluate the perception of the geographical name at issue among the relevant public as well as whether the application and use of the trademark in conflict which such name would generate confusion among Chinese consumers.
Finally, in its second instance ruling of 2019, the High People’s Court of Beijing confirmed the previous judgment.