A Shanghai-based company who owns the trademark of “Small Yellow Car (小黄车)” filed the lawsuit against ofo, the trademark owner of “ofo Small Yellow Car (ofo小黄车)”, for infringement of their registered trademark and asked for a compensation of RMB 3 million (about $452,000), Chinese media Beijing News is reporting.
As 车 (chē) can mean “car” or vehicle in Chinese, ofo simply referred to its bikes as “ofo sharing bicycles (ofo共享单车)” and “small yellow car (小黄车)”. And in the court, Ofo said that the company first used the trademark “small yellow car”.
Ofo claims that the plaintiff registered the trademark with malicious intent. Yesterday afternoon, Beijing’s Haidian Court heard the case in court. After four hours in court, both parties expressed their willingness to accept mediation.
On April 3rd, 2014, ofo’s co-founders registered the company as Small Yellow Bike (Beijing) Data Services Co., Ltd. (小黄车（北京）数据服务有限公司), whose business scope includes technology development, data processing, and bicycle rental. On August 6th, 2015, they registered the company as Beijing Baike Technology Co., Ltd (北京拜克洛克科技有限公司).
Ofo noted that they had launched its ofo bikes in the market and used “ofo” and “Small yellow car” before the plaintiff’s application for registration of “small yellow car” on July 29, 2015. Ofo also said that a lot of local media also reported ofo bikes stories and referred to ofo bikes as “small yellow car” or “ofo shared bike.”
“The plaintiff did not really use the trademark “Small Yellow Car” for a long time, but instead made a profit through litigation,” Ofo said during the court hearing. “The plaintiff, starting from October 30th in 2013, has also applied for registration of several other well-known trademarks, but the registrations so far are not in real commercial use.”
Trademark war can be frequently seen in China between China-based companies but also international brands and Chinese local companies. Last year, Apple has lost a trademark fight in China, and the Beijing court allowed a Chinese company to use the iPhone mark for its leather goods.