TOKYO/SHANGHAI — The recent case in which Ryohin Keikaku, the Tokyo-based company that runs the Muji chain of household goods stores, lost a trademark battle in a Chinese court has cast doubt over whether foreign companies will be allowed to compete fairly with local rivals and be treated equally in the country.
“The lesson that I have learned from this case is: secure your own rights first when you are considering expanding your business overseas,” said Satoru Matsuzaki, president of Ryohin Keikaku, on Friday at a press conference. “It is also important to assert your rights and make people understand them.”
Muji is short for “Mujirushi Ryohin,” the Japanese term for “no brand, quality goods.” Its products are characterized by their simplicity. The trademark “Mujirushi Ryohin” appears as four Chinese characters pronounced as “Wuyinliangpin” in Mandarin.
However, Muji was not able to register its brand in Chinese letters in the country for some of its woven fabric products, including bed covers and towels, as a Chinese company had registered “Wuyinliangpin” in 2001 before the Japanese group entered the country in 2005.
“We could not register it in China as it was already registered,” sighed Matsuzaki. The Chinese company has used “Wuyinliangpin” and adopted a simple and plain design for its products and stores which is quite similar to that of Muji.
This article was originally published in The Nikkei Asian Review. To read the full article, visit the link below: