November 2018. French professional footballer Kylian Mbappé knows better than many what it means to be a star. At the beginning of July, just after the World Cup match between France and Argentina – during which he scored two goals – there were no less than 169 applications in China to register his name as a trademark, the China Trademark Office AWA has reported.
189 x Mbappé
A couple of weeks later, the number of applications had risen further to 189, 159 of which were attempts to register the Chinese transliteration of Mbappé. The remaining 30 were applications to register Mbappé in the Latin alphabet. The applications covered an extremely wide range of products and services, and were mainly submitted by Chinese companies and individuals.
In China, where trademark registration is governed by the principle of ‘first come, first served’, famous leading trademarks (usually from the West) or names of celebrities are regularly hijacked. Well-known examples include Tesla, Hermes, Michael Jordan and Nicole Kidman. What’s more, it’s often quite difficult to reclaim a stolen trademark, despite the obvious bad faith being shown by the entity registering it.