China’s Shadowy Trademark System Means Knock Offs Of Everything, Even Big Banks

China’s Shadowy Trademark System Means Knock Offs Of Everything, Even Big Banks

China is well known for pirating everything from Rolex watches to the latest Hollywood (or even Bollywood) blockbuster, and now it has added giant financial institutions to that list.

Just across from the Hong Kong border in Shenzhen, you will find Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing Co. – a knock off of the New York-based financial giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Not satisfied with just having a name very, very close to the real thing, it has also copied Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s claim to being one of the largest of something – claiming on its website it is Shenzhen’s largest financial leasing firms.

Reporters calling the Shenzhen company talked to a receptionist who would not reveal her name but who readily acknowledged the company wasn’t affiliated with the U.S. bank. The employee refused to say how it got its name. She said she had never been asked about the similarity in company names.

Documents filed with the Shenzhen government show the company was supposedly formed in May 2013, and that it uses the exact same Chinese characters – gao sheng – as the authentic Goldman Sachs, and a similar font to that used by the U.S bank.

Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, Connie Ling, said there was no connection between the company she worked for and the Shenzhen company. She said Goldman was investigating the matter.

According to Paul Haswell, a lawyer with Hong Kong law firm Pinsent Masons, the pirating of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is not an isolated incident.

“There have been quite a few cases where Chinese individuals or organizations have registered in China the trademark of an existing and established overseas brand,” said Haswell, who added legal action against offenders was very unlikely to result in prosecution or cease and desist orders.

“It’s notoriously difficult for an overseas claimant to persuade the Chinese courts that there has been trademark infringement,” said Haswell. “There’s still a practice of whoever registers first wins.”

Even Super star basketball legend Michael Jordan lost his cases against a Chinese sportswear company using a version of his name.

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