Unitalen Client Water Babies Sued Former Franchisees in Defending Brand Rights and Won First Instance Judgment

September 30, 2022

Case Brief:

The plaintiff, Water Babies Limited (hereinafter referred to as "Water Babies"), was founded in the United Kingdom in 2002 and is a pioneer in the field of baby swimming. Since it was founded, Water Babies has focused on the field of baby swimming, and its pioneering "parent-child swimming" mode, "music teaching" mode, and highly professional "underwater photography" services for babies have been widely praised by parents. Water Babies has spread its business all over Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada and other countries through the franchise business model. Its baby swimming brands "water babies" and "沃特宝贝" have developed into international chain brands and entered the Chinese market in 2016.

Water Babies owns the trademarks Reg. No. 24419673A for "", Reg. No. G1203817 for "", Reg. No. 17855314 for "说明: 675d078e8bf29d015cd7e5a44f828825", and Reg. No. 44131042A for "WATER BABIES" (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the involved trademarks"). The involved trademarks have been approved for registration on services such as "Providing swimming courses and instruction, personal trainer services in the field of swimming, and entertainment services", "Personal trainer services on swimming, entertainment with the nature of swimming, underwater photography", "Providing training services, i.e. swimming courses and instruction; Photography", and "Providing waterpark services; Providing sports facilities; Sports training services; Providing swimming pool services; Swimming training" in Class 41 respectively and successively from 2013 to 2020.

Hengqin Bubble Baby Education Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Hengqin Bubble") is the general agent of Water Babies in China.

The legal representative of Water Bubble Education Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Water Bubble") and Liaoning Tianyi Shuiyi Technology Information Consulting Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Tianyi Shuiyi") both signed franchise agency agreements with the Chinese agent of Water Babies. Thereafter, said franchise agency agreements were rescinded without being actually performed. Water Bubble and Tianyi Shuiyi, knowing the trademarks of Water Babies, used marks same as or similar to the registered trademarks of Water Babies without the permission of the latter, and falsely used the information and development history of Water Babies in its misleading publicity.

Water Babies and Hengqin Bubble claimed that the above-mentioned acts of Water Bubble and Tianyi Shuiyi infringed their legitimate rights and interests, and filed a lawsuit with the People's Court of Chaoyang District, Beijing against Water Bubble and Tianyi Shuiyi for trademark infringement and unfair competition disputes in February 2021.

The People's Court of Chaoyang District ruled that the use of "water bubles", "water babies", "沃特宝贝", "water bubbles", "water bubies" and other marks in the operation of underwater photography, parent-child swimming training, maternity swimming courses and other services by Water Bubble and Tianyi Shuiyi constitutes trademark infringement. The contents such as "headquartered in the UK, founded in 2002" claimed by the defendants in publicity are false advertising. In the judgment, the two defendants are ordered to cease the acts of infringement, eliminate the influence and compensate the plaintiffs for economic losses and reasonable expenses of 950,000 yuan in total.

After the first instance judgment was made, the two defendants filed an appeal during the appeal period, and the case is still in the second instance trial at present.

Typical Significance:

This case is a relatively typical case of trademark infringement and unfair competition dispute. The review on the defense of legitimate trademark grants and the relevant determination on the acts of false publicity and unfair competition in the first instance judgment are of certain reference value and learning significance for similar cases.