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Beijing Intellectual Property Court takes ‘Double 11’ trademark dispute involving JD.com and Alibaba

Another battlefield for these two Chinese e-commerce giants.

Photo:Shutterstock.com

The Beijing Intellectual Property Court revealed on Thursday that it has started to hear a lawsuit between China’s e-commerce giant JD.com and the country’s National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), over a ‘Double 11’ trademark dispute involving JD.com and e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba.

The lawsuit was initiated by JD, after five of its trademarks used for the promotion of ‘Double 11’, China’s main e-shopping event of the year, were considered illegal by CNIPA, according to the court.

Currently, only Alibaba is allowed to use such signs in China as it owns related trademarks, as Alibaba applied for three trademarks under the name ‘Double 11’ on November, 2011, and were approved in October 2014 by CNIPA.

Alibaba later filed a request to invalidate JD.com’s above-mentioned trademarks with CNIPA on July 26, 2017, which later ruled that some of JD.com’s trademarks were totally invalid or invalid in certain service areas. The administration said that JD.com’s trademarks were too similar to Alibaba’s Shuang Shiyi trademarks, which were granted earlier to Alibaba.

JD.com refused to accept the ruling and brought this administrative lawsuit to the Beijing court, in which Alibaba also participated as a “third person”. JD.com sued the administration to the court and demanded the right to use letters and pictures of Shuang Shiyi (Double 11) legally in its shopping promotional activities around the date of Nov 11 each year, according to a press release of the company on Friday.

JD.com’s lawyers said on the court that ‘Double 11’ has become a general term for the public, and added that Alibaba should not limit the use of this term to itself, according to JD’s press release. The e-commerce company also stated that other Double 11 trademarks once granted to companies, including second-hand car trading platform Guazi.com and e-commerce platform Jumei.com, were later ruled to be invalid later.

The Beijing Intellectual Property Court court indicated that JD.com was once also granted five trademarks, comprising the Chinese characters for “Jingdong” and “Shuang Shiyi”, which can be literally translated as ‘JD.com Double 11′. These trademarks were once allowed to be used on “advertisements” and “online advertisements”, in addition to “television broadcasting” and”education programs”, the court added.

JD.com asked the defendant to withdraw its formal ruling, but the defendant still insisted on its formal judgment on Thursday, arguing that the two companies’ trademarks are very similar, to the point that if the public does not pay special attention, it can be considered as the same.

The third person Alibaba argued on Thursday that has been in direct competition with JD.com for years, and added that its rival has the malicious intention to leverage on the Double 11 shopping festival Alibaba has grown.

The final ruling will be announced in the future, the court said after hearing the cause.

The current chairman and CEO of Alibaba Daniel Zhang created the shopping promotion on Nov 11, 2009, to help merchants clear their stocks before the year-end, drawing inspiration from the so-called Singles Day celebration among young people.

In its first Double 11, or Singles’ Day, Alibaba collected a gross merchandise value (GMV) of RMB 52 million (USD 7.5 million), and since that moment has set the date of November 11 for an annual sales promotion. Other platforms also joined to compete for buyers too.

In the 2019’s edition, Alibaba reached a GMV of RMB 268.4 (USD 38.4 billion) during the 24-hour period on November 11, by counting transactions on its network composed by marketplaces Taobao, Tmall, and other sites including Lazada, AliExpress, Kaola, and new retail and consumer services platforms.

JD.com reached total sales worth RMB 204.4 billion on its platform between Nov 1 and Nov 11.

Between these 11 days, retail sales via the internet in China reached more than RMB 870 billion, up 26.7% year-on-year, according to online news portal Sina.com, which cited a spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce in China.

This article was updated to reflect developments.