Strong trademarks refer to words which are tailor-made and have no specific meaning in themselves, such as “Kodak”. These trademarks are distinctive and significant, and hence, the trademark law gives them the strongest protection.
Weak trademarks refer to trademarks which are new to the market; which have low customer recognition and awareness; or which customers are familiar with, but are relatively weak or are weakening in terms of their competitiveness and how influential they are in the market. Nowadays, with fierce competition among different brands, businesses will have no future if they fail to establish a brand or a strong brand.
For example, after many Internet companies have done with raising capital, there are no further actions – they are uncompetitive, such as ride-hailing companies which competed with Didi in its first few years.
Naturally, as weak brands are less popular, there is not much information about them. Competitors of Didi such as Yaozhao Car (搖搖招車), Yongche (易到用車), and Taxi Tips (打車小秘) are all examples of weak trademarks. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, names such as “Vulcan Mountain (火神山)”, “Raytheon Mountain (雷神山)”, “Corona (新冠)” and “City Lockdown” are also examples of weak trademarks.
Nonetheless, application for COVID-related trademarks such as “Vulcan Mountain”, “Raytheon Mountain”, “Corona” and “City Lockdown” and trademarks of names of individuals related to the pandemic such as “Li Wenliang (李文亮)” would violate Article 4 of the new Trademark Law. If the aforesaid trademarks are filed for application through trademark agencies, local market regulatory bodies shall, in accordance with Articles 4, 32, 19(3), 68(1) and 68(2) of the Trademark Law, order the relevant agencies to make amendments within a specified time, warn the violating agencies and impose a fine of 10,000 – 100,000RMB. Further, the persons-in-charge or other persons directly responsible for the violating acts shall be warned and be liable for a fine of 5,000 – 50,000 RMB, and have the matter recorded in their credit files. For instance, the market supervision bureaus of two companies in Changsha and Dongguan which tried to register trademark using the name of “Li Wenliang” shall, in accordance with Article 68(4) of the Trademark Law, impose administrative punishments such as warnings and monetary penalties on applicants for filing malicious trademark applications.
“Vulcan Mountain” and “Raytheon Mountain” are the names of temporary hospitals used to treat COVID-19 patients under special circumstances. If the names are registered as trademarks and are put on the market, it may hurt the feelings of the general public and may harm socialist morality.
In the past, we used to stress that we must abide by the law when applying for trademarks. But now, we say — we must not cross the line when making a trademark application.