Only days after Topshop threw open its doors in Shenzhen (related Nanfang Studio album here), there’s already rumours of the UK’s Topman fashion chain making the same jump. But for Topman, opening in the PRC might not be so simple.
A lingerie manufacturer in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, is preventing the trendy male fashion brand from joining its older sister, Topshop, on the Chinese high street. According to China’s trademark database, the Topman name was registered to the Zhongshan-based business in 2000. The database also shows the Arcadia Group, who owns the successful British retailer, filed at least three different applications, the first of which was in 2006. A source close to the matter divulged that the issue was nearing a legal resolution, and the obstacle facing the Arcadia Group was being resolved.
International companies are being met at the Chinese border by a number of “brand squatters”; people or companies that buy international brand names within China and wait to cash in when those same companies enter the world’s biggest consumer market, as Britain’s Daily Telegraph revealed in an investigation last month. Unlike in the UK, China’s trademarks operate on a “first-to-register” basis: whoever registers the brand first owns the rights to it.
Topman declined to comment on the trademark matter. The revelation comes as Topshop officially celebrated the opening of its first Chinese store earlier this month. When asked his thoughts about the trademark issue, Ray Lee, the man responsible for bringing Topshop and Topman to the mainland, said only that the issue was “difficult”.
The trademark issue does not appear to be affecting sales in Shenzhen; Topshop announced that over 2,000 people visited the store on its first day.