Zespri International has become the first New Zealand company to be granted Key Trademark Protection Status in China – and it comes as our country’s kiwifruit markerter tries to legally challenge unauthorised growing of SunGold kiwifruit variety in the East Asian country.
Granted by the Shanghai Intellectual Property Bureau, the status ensures greater protections against copyright infringements and sees Zespri join a number of other famous international brands such as Disney and Ferrero Rocher in receiving the designation.
Only fruit brand
Zespri general manager of Greater China, Michael Jiang, says Zespri is also the only fruit brand to be recognised in this way. “This is a strong acknowledgement of Zespri’s high profile among foreign brands in China as well as our strong market share and our positive corporate reputation in one of our most important markets,” says Michael.
“This recognition also reflects the challenges Zespri is facing with counterfeiting in China, including with the unauthorised growing of our Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit variety there, and is another demonstration of the support we’ve received from Chinese authorities.”
Key brand protection status is designed to strengthen the legal and administrative tools available to approved companies to fight the challenges to intellectual property.
Michael says it also means Zespri will now be able to take legal action against brands using similar names and those using packaging designs that copy Zespri’s, and allows action against companies using the Zespri name for product categories outside of fresh fruit – an action previously unavailable.
While the status has been afforded by the Shanghai Government, the updated list of protected brands has been circulated throughout China with a request that other provinces and cities give priority to protecting the protected brands. The Shanghai Intellectual Property Bureau will also proactively coordinate with other local regulators to support Zespri’s brand. “This is a key milestone for Zespri in Shanghai and a crucial step towards achieving nationwide recognition, and is the result of significant investment by Zespri and in efforts to build the brand in China,” says Michael.
“Zespri is grateful to the Chinese Government, which has consistently worked to help Zespri protect its brand and IP – something we are committed to doing on behalf of our 2800 kiwifruit growers around the world.”
Michael says the key trademark recognition will also give Zespri the means to take action against people trying to use Zespri copycat brands to sell Zespri’s SunGold variety grown without authorisation – a key focus for Zespri. “Our brand is one Chinese consumers know they can trust because they know Zespri’s kiwifruit is incredibly healthy, safe and delicious and grown in a way which is good for the environment.”
Last November Zespri told its growers it would take legal action against unauthorised producers in China. Zepsri chief grower and alliances officer David Courtney says investigations indicate G3 is present in varying ages of maturity in several areas, including some larger growing operations. “We’re currently in discussions with officials in a small number of provinces where the unauthorised G3 is being grown as we work with them to try and prevent the spread. The orchards that we are aware of are at varying stages of maturity with some understood to be in the production stage. We’re also continuing our work to understand how much is in the ground, who is involved and where it is being sold.
“It’s clear the scale of the planting and sales has recently intensified, which is why we’re taking action.”
David says the action being taken now is designed to stop this illegal fruit displacing NZ fruit from the shelf. “However, we’re a long way off that. Our targets are large scale growing operations.”
Based on investigations, Zespri believes there might be around 2000ha in the ground in several provinces “but that is an estimate and it’s hard to be certain”.
“It’s clear there’s an intention to scale up production with some bigger commercial players involved.”