Chinese Court Skins Christie's Copycat

Christie’s has won its lawsuit against a rival Chinese auction house for name infringement.

The Hong Kong court ruled that a rival had used a similar name to infringe upon Christie's Chinese trademark, after receiving evidence that Christie's clients were being “misled and deceived”.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are always wary of treachery in the Chinese art market, and are glad that the regional courts are starting to impose some legal norms to that market.

Hong Kong’s High Court heard that "Chritrs Group" which, according to its website page shown here, has held auctions in Singapore and Hong Kong this year, goes by a Chinese name that is pronounced in a similar way to Christie’s Chinese brand name.

The written form also shares one of the Chinese characters used in the translation of Christie’s.

Christie’s takes seriously matters of trademark infringement and wanted to protect the public and its clients from deception.

“We encourage clients and the public to exercise due diligence when selecting auction houses to work with,” the company said in a statement.

Lawyers acting on behalf of "Chritrs" argued that although the two company names were pronounced almost identically, the company’s marketing mainly took place in print form and not verbally, according to an account of the hearing published by the South China Morning Post.

They added that collectors of fine art were capable of distinguishing between the two auction houses. Chritrs has offices in Hong Kong, Taipei, London, Japan, Singapore, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The legal proceedings highlight one of the perils Western salerooms face as they expand in the lucrative Chinese market.

In 2008, Sotheby’s won a similar case against a Chinese company called Sichuan "Sufubi", a transliteration of Sotheby’s Chinese name, that had been holding auctions in China since 2003. Luxury purveyor, Gucci, has fought similar battles there with rival retailers.

Here is the link to the court judgement.