American plastic table manufacturer Lifetime Products Inc. said it has successfully taken its long-running patent-infringement fight to China, winning its first court case there against a local manufacturer.
Lifetime, based in Clearfield, Utah, announced Nov. 21 that it won a trademark-infringement case in Shanghai courts against Zhejiang Lifan Furniture Co. Ltd., which it said was manufacturing folding tables using Lifetime's logo.
A spokesman for Lifan, based in Hangzhou, China, acknowledged in an interview with Plastics News that it had used Lifetime's logo, but said it did so at the request of a client in the Philippines who provided Lifan with false certificates saying it had permission.
“We have already stopped using the logo,” said Sol Chen, sales manager with Lifan, which also does business as Hangzhou Xiaoshan Dadongnan Plastic Packing Co. Ltd. “We were cheated by the client from the Philippines.”
Lifetime said the Shanghai Pudong New District People's Court ordered Lifan to stop using Lifetime's trademark, to destroy the infringing molds and to pay Lifetime a penalty of 150,000 Chinese yuan ($23,500).
“This is a significant milestone for Lifetime Products Inc. and U.S. manufacturers as a whole,” said Lifetime President Richard Hendrickson. “This judgment marks the first time Lifetime has successfully enforced its Chinese intellectual property rights in a Chinese court.”
Hendrickson said the monetary judgment was not large, but the fact that a Chinese court ruled against a Chinese company is important.
“Our legal team in China did a fantastic job from start to finish on this case beginning with gathering evidence to be used in the case, coordinating the seizures with the local and national authorities, and successfully arguing infringement before the court,” Hendrickson said.
Chen said Lifan plans to pay the 150,000 yuan penalty and try to collect it from the client in the Philippines.
In May, Lifetime said Chinese customs authorities intercepted a shipment of chairs and tables from Lifan, which were bound for the Philippines and were illegally using Lifetime's logo. In that case, Lifetime said it tipped off Chinese authorities to the shipment.
The U.S. firm also said in the Nov. 21 statement that China's Patent Reexamination Board last month reaffirmed the validity of one of Lifetime's Chinese patents.
Lifetime has filed court cases in the United States, China, Australia and other countries.