Chinese sports manufacturer Fujian Tingfeilong Sports Goods Co. Ltd., recently launched a sports clothing and footwear brand under the name “Uncle Martian.” But for their unoriginal logo, the launch of the brand would not have otherwise captured media headlines. Photos from Uncle Martian’s launch went viral as the brand’s logo was revealed.
Image source: Uncle Martian’s Weibo social media account screen shot and Under Armour website
Uncle Martian is denying allegations that its logo bears an uncanny resemblance to the well known US-based sports apparel and equipment company Under Armour, whose brand name and logo are registered trademarks in the US, China and other international markets.
The similarities between Uncle Martian and Under Armour reportedly go beyond the use of the nearly identical looking logos. The transliterated Chinese name of Uncle Martian, which phonetically reads as “an-ke-ma-ding” is not too different sounding from Under Armour’s brand name in Chinese “an-de-ma.” Uncle Martian claims that it is focused on developing its own brand, and further, that its brand has been legitimized by approval from China’s Administration for Industry and Commerce.
This isn’t the first time a Chinese company has apparently tried to piggy-back off of the reputation and popularity of an established North American brand. Other sports apparel brands such as Adidas, Nike and Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan line have all faced copycat brands in China and sought legal action to protect their intellectual property rights. For example, Michael Jordan sued Qiaodan Sports in 2012 and sought to de-register marks which used his transliterated name “Qiaodan,” his jersey number 23 and a similar jumpman logo. Two lower court decisions ruled against Jordan stating that the “Qiaodan” name did not definitively point to Michael Jordan and that registered logo did not infringe Air Jordan’s famous jumpman logo. The case was appealed and heard by the Supreme People’s Court in April; the verdict is currently pending.
Although trademark and copyright laws exist in China, the country is often criticized for being lax when it comes to enforcement. There are obvious questions as to the level of foreign brand protection in China, and the decision in the Jordan case may set the pace for future suits. Under Armour has stated that it aware of Uncle Martian’s logo and will “vigorously pursue all business and legal courses of action.”