Recently there was big news about the collaboration of technological giant Samsung with the fashion brand Supreme. The companies announced their plans to enter the Chinese market together. Soon it became
clear that the Supreme cooperating with Samsung was not the original Supreme founded by James Jebbia. How did it happen? Samsung establishing a partnership with the fake Supreme was possible because the New York brand doesn’t have rights to their trademark on Chinese territory. So, we decided to investigate who has the rights to Supreme in China.
Supreme in China
It’s still unclear if Samsung was aware from the start that it was not working with the original Supreme. During the announcement of the partnership, on the stage we could spot the well-known logo of the brand and the representatives of both companies talked about their plans to enter the Chinese market and to open the flagship store in China. When it turned out that Jebbia’s Supreme had nothing to do with the agreement, Samsung issued a statement clarifying that it was not working with Supreme New York, but with Supreme Italia. The name is a so-called „legal fake” which uses the same trademark as the American brand on Italian and Spanish territory.
Next year, Supreme Italia plans to open 70 stores around the world. For comparison, original Supreme brand opened merely 11 stores since its founding 25 years ago. Moreover, Supreme Italia announced plans to launch an online store on Chinese trading platforms such as Tmall and JD.com.
The first of these fake Supreme stores in China opened a few months ago in Shenzhen. It looks like a real Supreme store and consumers can find products with the characteristic red and white logo there. It reminds us of a similar situation from a few years back when over 20 fake Apple stores opened in China.
Does Supreme New York have rights to Supreme in China?
According to some internet reports Supreme Italia entering the Chinese market is completely legal because the company preceded Supreme New York there, thereby winning the right to use the name and logo in Asia. However, this is not entirely true, and the case is much more complicated. When we checked out who is the owner of the rights to the Supreme name and logo in China it turned out that the applications to register a trademark are still being processed. In addition, in the last few years over 10 different companies applied to reserve the rights to the trademarks nearly identical as the Supreme trademark. However, there’s no Supreme Italia among them.
What’s very interesting is the fact that Supreme New York applied for the trademark registration in 2014. It was not until 2017 that the application was initially accepted. Since then, the Chinese office still hasn’t granted the full protection to the rightful owner of the Supreme New York brand (Chapter 4 Corp.) due to the opposition pending.
Moreover, Chinese entities began to submit to the Chinese trademark office applications of the trademarks like the famous Supreme logo. Some of them already have been rejected, but many applications are still awaiting examination. Below we present some of the applications found on the Chinese Trademark Office website:
A Shanghai company that applied for registration of the Supreme trademark
A Shishi company that applied for registration of the Supreme trademark
A Beijing company that applied for registration of the Supreme trademark
A Weihai company that applied for registration of the Supreme trademark
Here are some applications already declined for registration of the Supreme trademark:
A Xiamen company that applied for registration of the Supreme trademark
A Hong Kong company that applied for registration of the Supreme trademark
Who has rights to Supreme in China?
It turns out that there is one company that managed to register the Supreme trademark, but in another product class (according to China’s Classification of Goods and Services). The applications shown above relate to classes 25 (Clothing, footwear, hats, socks, gloves) and 18 (Bags, leather goods, umbrellas). Whereas the same characteristic Supreme logo was successfully registered in the service class 35 (Advertising, business management, marketing). Since October 2018 a Hong Kong company is protected on account of the registered trademark. It’s worth mentioning that the same company tried to register this logo in other classes, but the application was rejected. According to the trademark law, the owner has reserved rights to Supreme name and logo only in the chosen class. It’s still uncertain whether the registration of this name will affect other applications concerning almost identical trademark. The registered trademark is shown below:
Will Supreme trademark be registered in China?
The process of a trademark registration can take a long time. It’s difficult to predict at this moment if the American brand will be able to reserve the rights to use its logo in China or maybe one of the Chinese applicants will precede them. In our opinion, it’s possible that the rights to the name “Supreme” won’t be given to anyone. Generally, the Chinese trademark office is not willing to register common phrases. In this case, the attempt to register the name “Supreme” can be treated as if someone wanted to reserve the right to use the word “supreme”.
Other Supreme trademarks that don’t resemble the characteristic red and white logo in any way and were previously rejected by the office seem to prove this theory. However, we have no way of knowing the reasons for rejecting these specific trademarks and we can only make assumptions. On the other hand, the name “Supreme” was successfully registered in the service class. As you can see, the case of registration of the Supreme name and trademark is complicated. Right now, it’s difficult to predict how it will all end and who will obtain the rights to use this trademark in China.
Trademark registration in China
In conclusion, the American company indeed doesn’t have rights to a registered trademark of Supreme in China. However, Supreme Italia doesn’t either. This case shows how important it is to register a trademark in China. The right to protection is granted to the entity that submits the application for registration. Not the one that actually uses that trademark. If you engage in business dealings with China, it’s a must that you register your name and trademark in China before someone else does.
Maulik Shah has been importing from China for over 16 years, He has helped more than 1000's of startups in Importing from China. He has in-depth knowledge and experience in sourcing a broad range of products. Find out how to Import from China to India Risk-Free from your Best sourcing Partner.