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New Balance Puts Its Foot Down on Chinese Knock-Offs

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For years, Chinese manufacturers have stuck to American products like white on rice. The country makes billions of dollars every year counterfeiting the goods conceived and occasionally made in the USA in its own factories -- factories that don’t even bother with those site safety “number of days since our last accident” signs and allow the products to be sold on the cheap. With no signs of stopping, the rampant knock-off industry has expanded to counterfeiting entire Apple stores, Disney Stores, Starbucks, McDonald's, and, yes, Trojan Condoms.

And we’ve seen fraudulent facsimiles run rampant among our trademarked textile industry, especially when it comes to sneakers like Nike and Adidas. In 2002, a Taiwanese businessman and former licensee for global athletic footwear leader New Balance went rogue and began manufacturing forgeries of the shoes in his factory until he was caught.

Five years later, another company took a crack at copying the New Balance brand, emblazoning their shoes with the familiar “N” logo.

The company’s name, Niubanlun, is as close a translation as possible, with xin meaning “new” and bailun being a transliteration of “balance.” In fact, the Chinese brand name was actually used by New Balance to sell its sneakers in the country from 1995 to 2003 and had it on its packaging until 2006.

New Balance filed a law suit against the Fujian province-based Niubanlun Sportswear Company and Shanghai Tibo Business Consulting Company for trademark infringement. At stake is a small sum of $78,721 USD including the destruction of all the company’s sneaker stock and a cease order against the future manufacture and sale of the counterfeit product.

Niubanlun Sportswear Company is defending that the name Niubanlun was up for grabs since New Balance had never legally registered it in China. In 2007, the year after New Balance took the name off its packaging, Niubanlun Sportswear Company registered it and began selling its lookalike sneakers throughout the country.

The court has not yet released its ruling.
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