Thursday, May 12, 2016

Haochen Sun on the Gucci Burnt Offerings Row in Hong Kong (SCMP)

Haochen Sun
South China Morning Post
12 May 2016
Much to everyone’s surprise, Gucci apologised last Friday to Hong Kong stores selling funeral paper offerings after sending out a warning letter accusing them of infringing its trademark right. It may seem this battle has ended with the poor “ants” (stores) triumphing over a rich “elephant” (Gucci). This sentiment will resonate with many people. But, in fact, neither of these parties is the real loser: rather, it is the general public.
     First, while Gucci rushed to apologise “to anyone [its staff] may have offended”, the ants-versus-elephants sentiment has encouraged law-breaking behaviour. Second, the public attention on the case has nevertheless failed to focus on the underlying social justice problems in Hong Kong and many other parts of the world.
     It is clear from the public response that few people gave serious consideration to whether Gucci’s trademark right was being infringed by sales of the paper offerings. Instead, Gucci was accused either of showing no respect to the Chinese tradition of burning paper offerings to the dead or of waging a war against small business owners on main street.
     Bear in mind that the paper replicas of Gucci handbags bore the intertwined “GG” logo, which Gucci has registered with the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department. Lawyers who were asked by the media to comment on the case argued that the paper offerings did not infringe Gucci’s legal right to prevent consumer confusion under our trademark law. Surely, no reasonable consumer of luxury handbags would be misled into believing the paper replicas were Gucci-made handbags. The venue and price at which they were sold defy any second-guessing that Gucci had ventured into the funeral products market... Click here to read the full article.

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