Copyright issues have long been a sour spot for start-ups in China. The latest example is the campaign by Master Bao, a Beijing-based pastry chain, which filed cases against hundreds of shops across the country that are operating illegally under its brand.
"I've seen more than two hundred stores that blatantly use the same name as mine just in Beijing," Bao, who started his business 14 years ago in Beijing and registered a trademark for his floury kingdom in 2013, told the media.
Having seen enough knockoffs, the founder filed a series of lawsuits against Beijing Yishang Food Management Co. Ltd.
In the name of Master Bao, with a different logo, the defendant has opened more than 100 chain stores across 45 cities. It is reported that the franchise fee for a store is about 98,000 yuan (about 15,500 US dollars).
Courts in three cities including Beijing have accepted the cases. The first Nanjing hearing is set for March 14 and Hangzhou will open the case on April 13.
The plaintiff registered the trademark "Master Bao" under the category of "bread and cakes", while the defense held the trademark "Master Bao" under the category of "restaurants, beverages, and day care centers".
"The Trademark Law stipulates that the exclusive right of a registered trademark is limited to the approved merchandise," Zhou Yixia, the plaintiff's attorney said.
Zhou believes the company's "malicious intent" to snatch trademarks is obvious and it is an act of unfair competition.
You Yunting, an intellectual property lawyer from DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai, suggested that entrepreneurs should register their trademarks in all categories related to their core business in order to leave no room for copycats.
The founder had won a lawsuit against a personal shop in Tianjin.
"They have a low cost of breaking the law, but we have a high cost of safeguarding our rights. The case lasted for one and a half years. However, the compensation is not enough for hiring a lawyer," Bao said.
His popular brand, as evinced by its long queues whenever a new branch opens, is famous for its affordable items like pork and beef floss cakes, egg tarts, buns, and croissants.
Despite copycats patisseries and similar products available at most bakeries, there are only 26 authentic Master Bao outlets nationwide.