Shanghai Wan Cui Tang Restaurant Management Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Wan Cui Tang) is the owner of the registered trademark under No. 12046607, registered trademark under No. 17320763, and registered trademark under No. 23986528. The approved service items include restaurants, canteens, etc. in Class 43, and are all within the validity period. On May 21, 2021, Wan Cui Tang discovered that Wenjiang Wu A Po Green Pepper Fish Hot Pot (hereinafter referred to as Wu A Po Hot Pot) used the words "Green Pepper Fish Hot Pot" in its restaurant advertisement. Therefore, Wan Cui Tang instituted a suit with the court on the grounds that Wu A Po Hot Pot had infringed on its registered trademark exclusive right, requesting that Wu A Po Hot Pot immediately stop trademark infringement and compensate Wan Cui Tang for economic losses and reasonable expenses totaling 50,000 yuan. The first instance court held that the sued actions of Wu A Po Hot Pot constituted trademark infringement, and ordered Wu A Po Hot Pot to stop the infringement and compensate for economic losses and reasonable expenses totaling 30,000 yuan. Wu A Po Hot Pot was dissatisfied and filed an appeal. The Sichuan Provincial High People's Court held in the second instance that green pepper is widely known as a seasoning for Sichuan cuisine. Due to the natural connection between restaurants, canteen services, and dish seasonings, the identification of the involved trademarks and the dish names containing the words "green pepper" is confused, greatly reducing the significance of the involved trademarks. The weak significance of the involved trademarks determines that their protection scopes should not be too broad, otherwise they will hinder the legitimate use by other market entities and affect the market order of fair competition. In this case, the words "green pepper" included in the advertisement of Wu A Po Hot Pot objectively describe the characteristic of the dish Fish Hot Pot containing green pepper as a seasoning. It is not used separately and has no intention of piggyback on popularity of the involved trademark of Wan Cui Tang, which is not easy to cause confusion or misunderstanding among the relevant public. The sued act of Wu A Po Hot Pot is legitimate and does not constitute trademark infringement. Therefore, it was judged that the first instance judgment was revoked and all litigation claims of Wan Cui Tang were rejected.
The second trial of this case clearly established the standards for determining the legitimate use of trademarks, stating the "great principle" that "rights have boundaries, and exercise thereof must be done in good faith". The second trial fully respects the general knowledge, reasonable sentiment, and common sense of the people, and upholds the legitimate rights and interests of small and micro enterprises that operate with integrity and fairness in accordance with the law, as well as the market order of fair competition.
(Case source: Supreme People's Court (Top 10 Intellectual Property Cases of Chinese Courts in 2022))