Posts Tagged ‘fake’

Chinese Michael Jordan lookalike brand sued by Jordan and Nike

Friday, February 24th, 2012
Qiao Dan basketball shoe

Yesterday during Chinese media monitoring on behalf of a sportswear client, we encountered an article published on Sina’s finance channel concerning a fake Chinese Michael Jordan sportswear brand in Fujian province.  The established Chinese sportswear brand called Qiao Dan (乔丹 — this is a phonetic transliteration of the phonemes for “Jordan” into Mandarin Chinese) is incorporated in Jinjiang, Fujian Province. Qiao Dan’s company’s website can be found here. Qiao Dan’s logo and CI has a distinctively NBA and Michael Jordan style (compare it to Nike’s Jordan brand). Qiao Dan’s tagline is “Beyond Yourself”.  

The story is indicative of general Chinese intellectual property issues around famous western names, and first-to-register legal protections commonly granted to Chinese “shanzhai” or lookalike brands.

From a business development perspective, its interesting to note that this fake Jordan brand has been operating in the open for 12 years and according to the article, Nike has been in dispute with the company since 2006.  According to the article, its only this week that the real Michael Jordan has brought legal action against the fake brand.  The lesson being that for western companies with valuable brands its always advisable to establish beachheads in China as early as practicable and to exercise brand-building and PR via digital, social media, experiential, retail, etc, as a key method of legal defense.

The English summary translation of the article is ours.

Typical Nike Jordan shoe design

Typical Nike Jordan shoe design

News link (Chinese): http://finance.sina.com.cn/chanjing/gsnews/20120223/092911436815.shtml

Feb 23, 2010, Beijing. The legendary Michael Jordan announced through AP that he’s formally suing Chinese sportswear maker Jordan Sports for abusing his name and his children’s name. “It’s not about money”, said Jordan.

The trademark of Jordan Sports is a silhouette of Michael Jordan in the air getting ready for a slam dunk. The brand has grabbed a big share of rural market with cheap sports shoes, and achieved CNY2.91 billion revenue [NB: USD462M] in 2010, currently seeking IPO on stock exchanges.

According to the IPO document, Jordan Sports claims that “Jordan” is but a common family name for foreigners. It’s not supposed to be specifically “Michael Jordan”. As to the “Air Jordan” brand owned by Nike, the Chinese Jordan claims that the differences between the two of them are pretty obvious. Plus, Jordan Sports registered “Jordan” trademarks in China first, and Nike’s applications for similar trademarks are currently non-exceptionally rejected by the SAIC [NB: Chinese State Administration of Industry and Commerce].

However, in the same document it also said that Jordan Sports has two other trademarks under its belt: “Jie Fu Li Qiao Dan” (Jeffrey Jordan) and “Ma Ku Si Qiao Dan” (Marcus Jordan). [NB: Michael Jordan's two sons are named Jeffrey and Marcus].

Except for the Jordan brand, Nike and its offspring Converse have been engaged in a long-lasting war against Jordan Sports over Converse’s star-shaped trademark too. The dispute stretched from 2006 until now.

[NB: according to other Chinese news resources, in early 2012 there was a Beijing consumer suing Jordan Sports for business fraud. The angry consumer pleaded that “Jordan” as a transliteration is very well known and commonly associated to Michael Jordan, and Jordan Sports never mentioned in any marketing collateral that the brand has nothing to do with the real Michael Jordan. Illuminant speculates that this may be a part of the Nike/Jordan legal offense.]

Foursquare clone spotted, and it’s more than that

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Interestingly, a couple of days after I stumbled upon the media report on Foursquare and came up with a paranoid conspiracy theory, I did find the first Chinese clone of Foursquare… No, I’m not promoting myself as sort of oracle or fortune teller. From the look of it, it’s been there for some time, not long, but definitely before April 8th. In fact it seems to be born on March 18th.

The clone, or technically half-clone or double-clone, depends on your perspective, is called 拉手 (la1 shou3, “holding hands”). It’s about 50% Groupon clone, 50% Foursquare clone. You can find the website here.

Sorry, you will have to register to do anything on the website. I’ve tried it a little bit though, and the hands-on report comes as this:

Interesting name. The name of the Foursquare-clone part is “拉手四方” (La1 “holding”, Shou3 “hands”, Si4 “four”, Fang1 “square”). Actually I was thinking 四方 was a good name if Foursquare makes a Chinese manifestation. Four is 四, square makes 方, and combined the two characters mean “everywhere in the world”. Now it seems the initiative is lost. If Lashou has registered the term, there will likely be an unpleasant fight over a simple name. Meanwhile, the “Check-in” function of Foursquare has been mapped into a bilingual term, with English aspect exactly “Check-in” and Chinese facet “踩点”. Coincidentally, this is also what I thought best translation for the function of THE Foursquare. Another initiative lost.

Limited but essential client support. Lashou’s Foursquare-ish client comes on S60, iPhone, and also on web if you don’t have the right phone. Both clients are downloadable on official site, with the iPhone version also available in Apple’s App Store. My HD2 is rendered rather useless in this case, thus all tests has been done on its web version.

The game rules are pretty much the same as Foursquare’s, with extra tweaks to support the other (Groupon-ish) half of Lashou:

  • At least the web interface has absolutely nothing to do with GPS. You can check-in to anywhere sitting in your office. And those check-in all count.
  • Each check-in grants 6 points. Check-in and leave a tip gives 8 points.
  • Users who have bought stuff with this website’s Groupon Clone service have extra treat. Adjusted points granted = 6 + (6*0.3*how many times you bought stuff on Lashou). You bought three items there, your average check-in will be worth 6+(6*0.3*3)=11.4 points
  • Active user who SPENT MORE MONEY on its Groupon aspects also has a 1% extra bonus to check-in points.
  • Users who installed the client on iPhone, and bound the account to a Sina Weibo (the leading Twitter clone), and have over 1,000 followers on Weibo, also gets 1% bonus to check-in points.
  • The website ranks users in accordance with check-in points every 24 hours (0:00 to 24:00). Top 3 point bandits get CNY 25 coupon at a rather popular hotpot franchise (呷卟呷卟, if you are interested). User points are cleared every midnight.
  • Yes, there are also badges to unlock, you bet. It’s not clear how many badges are available and how exactly to unlock them yet.

Some interesting findings during the experiment:

  • For the lack of GPS factor, you can check into wherever you like, or invent places out of thin air to check-in. I saw funny venue called “Abcd” with an address “asdf, Beijing”. And sure, there are duplicated venues.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any check-in limit counter. You can check-in every single venue available everyday.
  • The real-time check-in board pops up at least 1 new check-in message every 2 seconds. The board was still rolling rapidly after 3 hours into the observation.
  • Threw a peek at leader scores during the process: top star had 974.9 points. Big white hot “WHUT?!”.  Dare you challenge this record on THE Foursquare, man?
  • After one morning’s observation, there were at least 10 new users popped up in the check-in board.

Conclusion

Pro:

  • One-two punch, nice. Rally Groupon-clone users into Foursquare-clone, and maybe vice a little versa.
  • Great choice of client platform. iPhone is getting popular, and S60 is the emperor. Let’s forget WinMo (sort of minority), Android (absolutely minority), BlackBerry (you ever heard of this thingie, bro?).
  • Solid stimulation. Hotpot coupon! Yay! And that’s from the service provider, it’s always available.
  • Encourage cheating. Heats up user competition for the current stage. Users were dedicating a whole morning checking into hundreds of places.
  • Chinese UI for everything. Of course.
  • It’s getting media heat! Dubbed as “the Foursquare of China” and kind of regarded as the next golden boy.

Con:

  • Encourage cheating. This is bound to be bad in the long run.
  • Badges seem to be limited, and lack of interesting ones like “Jobs”. Actually, I failed to find a complete badge list anywhere. Not knowing what’s around the corner isn’t good.
  • Limited phone support. In case, just in case, some day Android or WinPho7 devices gain popularity here…

That’s about the size of it. Good over bad, by quite far. I don’t think it’s time to worry about the genuine Foursquare though. Initiatives are lost, yes; the clone is doing good, yes; the war is far from over though. According to my previous timeline, they are still in phase 2. The first clone is only less than 2 months old, and it doesn’t seem to have gotten any venture capital. For quite some time Foursquare doesn’t have to worry about clone swarm. Given proper action and timing, everything could be changed.

But this Lashou should not be overlooked either. As previously mentioned, Chinese netizens are super faithful to the 1st thing they stick to. Like the Parking War and Friend for Sale game module on Facebook, they were cloned into Chinese websites, too. Unlike elsewhere, those two petty “games” went through “popular” stage into “frenzy” land. People were giving up sleep time trying to outdo their buddies over a virtual parking slot. This phenomenon (right after World of Warcraft) contributed to the “internet addiction” fuss haunting the whole society. That’s how far dedicated Chinese users can go. Things can be quite tricky if Lashou reaches that goal.

OK. So far, I’ve written a big chunk of subjective observation and assumption. Personally I’m rather interesting in what direction this not-really-competition would go. Lashou will be paid close attention. Interesting twists and turns will be covered.

Article by Kane Gao, Illuminant’s Head of Research

Business Wars: Attack of the Clones

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This post is about internet, business, and China. Not how to do internet business here, but rather discussing how to ready yourself if you happen to own an internet business, and may someday want to try your luck in the Orient.

It’s going to be lengthy, and mostly I will spin the whole thing around the case of Foursquare, the rapidly emerging location-based social network, or I’d rather call it a social game. In case you feel bored in the reading process (I’m quite positive you will), I guess it’s better to put my conclusion before the actual body, to save you some time, or maybe create a little suspension. I believe that:

China is not a piece of virgin land with infinite opportunity. Actually it’s sort of a closed parallel universe. Everything has a counterpart here, or will soon have a couple of them if there isn’t one already. Residents seldom get out, but whoever ventures inside the border must fight its shadow self before anything. Shadow self here means those who clones foreign services atom-to-atom, in order to duplicate their international success.

Now let’s cut into the boring part.

On the morning of April 16th (Beijing time), 163 Tech, one of the major tech portal sites in China, posted a story about Foursquare. Link here.

It’s not even worth translating. The whole article is about Foursquare releasing a new version of client pack and gave a thorough instruction on what Foursquare is. To my knowledge, this is so far the first time Chinese web media covers Foursquare. 1:54pm the same day, QQ tech, another major tech portal here picked up a similar story from Forbes. This time it’s not on the front page though. But given the copy/paste spreading nature of Chinese portals, with some luck, there will be a chain-reaction soon. And unlike the western world, portals are what’s big here. SNS and micro-blogging fall into the secondary team.

Media coverage is good, however, not always so. Current stories about Foursquare on our portals emphasize that Foursquare is “fresh start, fun, growing at stunning speed”, and most importantly, “been shown a lot of love by venture investors”. According to 163 Tech story, it has already got 1 million US dollars from VC. Typical Chinese chemistry of business works like this: you get a glass of pure business, put in 1 pinch of venture investor love, 1 teaspoon of rapid growth, 0.5 gram of fresh start, and finally add 0.1 gram media coverage. Boom! You get an assembly of nice carbon-clones. Foursquare has already got everything. Give a little more here and there, a swarm of clone legion will shut it out of China for good, in case it may want to join the “let’s conquer China singlehandedly” team somewhere in the future.

The thing is, overgrown population leads to heat competition (for everything), which in turn leads to the high demand on response speed, ready-for-use business model and cash support for mere survival. Thus Chinese start-up businessmen are always keen on internet sector (fast to deploy and profit), on venture capital (to make start-up business boom a.s.a.p.), and successful templates from the western (saves a ton of feasibility research, also works as material for lobbying more and more careful venture investors).

The now-massive Instant Messaging giant QQ started off as an ICQ clone. World-dominating Alibaba (Taobao) was an eBay clone (good job though, it got much better than eBay in the long run), Dangdang was an Amazon duplicate, and the earliest 3 portals (Sohu, Sina, 163) were all “inspired” by Yahoo. That’s only the early days of Chinese internet sector. Facebook was cloned as Kaixin001.com, which was later further cloned by a couple of other companies into Xiaonei.com, 51.com, etc. Now Facebook the GFWed is said to be plotting a China entry, guess who’s daddy when it lands here? Twitter was cloned as Sina Weibo even before it got GFWed. Not to mention the micro-blogging frenzy rallied by 163, Tencent, and Sohu. Craigslist inspired a swarm of classified information sites a couple of years ago which unfortunately all died out. With everyone getting into the clone-VC-marketing-dominate model, newbie starters are more than ever paying attention to foreign examples of success. Chatroulette was discovered by majority of Chinese netizens about a month ago, and its stories spread rather wide. Now there is at least one Chatroulette clone working full force to duplicate its success and attract VC here in China already.

Now Foursquare has been proven to have remarkable growth, and VC-charm. I’m quite positive Foursquare clones will begin to show up in about 3 months (it’s technically harder to clone than Chatroulette). My suggestion is, if Foursquare would ever possibly consider gaining a share of Chinese market in the short or long future, it should get into action now, to defend its not-really-presence here. Chinese internet users have some unique natures: A) as a group, they tend to pick up new stuff much slower than westerners B) once they do, it will be harder than moving mountains to make them switch to any other equivalent, except if God wills so. It would be a good idea to start the defense battle right now, gain some distance before the Attack of the Clones could ever hit the big screen. I’m not talking about all those trouble incorporating here. It could be achieved easily: make a Chinese UI for Foursquare client.

English-only is a hell of a deal breaker here. Why so little Chinese (consider the population) use Twitter even before it’s GFWed? Why, despite the fatal lack of utilities on that platform, are Chinese Android users refusing to install Advanced Task Manager? More on Android’s case, why users here tend to avoid the stock app market at all? It’s all about language barrier. Chinese are mandated to learn English from junior high, and we can’t get a bachelor diploma without passing CET level 4 English test. Getting master degree requires even higher marks. The majority of Chinese are *forced* to swallow it, and they resent this language once they no longer need it, which in most people’s case means right after graduation. And you know people lose language skill faster than a free falling hippo when they don’t use it, or even hate it, right? With years spent on game/software localization and movie subtitle making, I’m rather confident to say that a general Chinese will automatically reject any software with more than 5 English words, or 1 full English sentence on its UI.

If that is done, they could do some extra work to sweeten the situation up: the phone client. Right now Foursquare has a client for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, webOS, and Windows Mobile (this buggy WinMoSquare thing doesn’t seem to be official release though). Of all the major smartphone platforms the only one missing is Symbian S60. I know Americans in general and geeks everywhere laughs at Nokia. Me, too, thinks S60 is a pathetic piece of cultural relic. However, not even 65,536 gigawatts of distain can warp the reality. Outside the United States, Nokia and its S60 legion rules, reigns, and kills, particularly in China. I’ve been doing a hobby project #PhoneWatch on twitter (@chassit). Put it simply, I identify every single smartphone or other smart-looking gadget bumps into my sight on my evening subway trip back home (Beijing, Sanlitun – Dawanglu, Line 10 then Line 1 through the busiest CBD area), and count them as groups. Not a long trip, but quite good timing IMO. Actually I’ve been doing this for kind of an occupational disease for a couple of years, only not keeping clear record. To my knowledge, Nokia S60 is always the winner. Now I’m 2 days into data-keeping, each day ending up with S60 topping the list, with a number as good as all other groups combined (groups are: S60, WinMo, Android, BlackBerry, Palm OS/webOS, iPhone, Moto Linux, shanzhai phones, Kindle, Sony PSP, Nintendo DS/DSi/DSL/DSi XL, tablets). As to why S60 beats iPhone by so far, I think I’ve got some reasonable theory, but that’s story for maybe another day. Anyway, not supporting S60 in China is quite far from a wise move.

What’s done is done. Under the current situation, which is not bad actually, if Foursquare will someday be interested in a China-entry, my suggest plan is (as in phases):

Phase 1 – right now: Grant the software a Chinese UI, also give a Chinese facelift to the website if possible. Stop here, wait for to-be cloner’s move. Do this as early as possible. Save energy, stay alert. Develop a S60 client pack if time allows.

Phase 2 – marked by the 1st sign of cloners: Post the install package (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android) on pirate app sharing hubs. BlackBerry users are the minority. iPhone users (those who actually use them as a smartphone) all rely on jailbreaking. Android users, as mentioned before, resent the stock market as a whole. Pirate app sites (mostly BBS) are the major resource of phone applications here. Foursquare doesn’t count on sales of app for revenue anyway, so no hard feelings.

Phase 3 – marked by any cloner getting the 1st batch of venture capital: Dig further into Chinese smartphone user communities. Influence them in QQ chat groups in addition to piracy share BBS. Offer prize to most active Chinese users. Incorporate in China if necessary, as required to start further cooperation with venue owners.

Phase 4 – marked by Tencent joining the war: Unlikely, but highly dangerous if it happens. All-out war is required. More viral marketing. Spread advertisements if things are not going well. Tencent is the most horrible enemy out there. Their QQ IM service has hundreds of millions of users, and they are surprisingly faithful. Spiraling from IM service, Tecent has attached online games, SNS, blogging, search engine, C2C sales platform, email, file sharing, news portal, and various “big things” at different times to the QQ client. Stimulate QQ IM users -> rally them to the new (closely bound) service -> instant boom -> kill competitor in mere months. This is the normal routine for it. Up to date, their clone products have claimed kings of hills, with only less than a handful of unbeaten opponents namely Google, Baidu, and Taobao. Foursquare could stand on an even ground with those three giants? I doubt so. QQ mobile client is a must-have for Chinese smartphone users, and Foursquare sound like a rather nice and easy-to-implement add-on to its current clients. They don’t even have to do any marketing, just send a system notification “have you updated your QQ to the latest version?” Without the human power and user base of Tencent, response speed is the only weapon if Foursquare ever gets in a toe-to-toe deathmatch with it.

Well, that’s it. If Foursquare marks China-entry as a mere possibility, they should start making small things happen right now. Here the key rule is: the 1st to capture the flag always have a better chance of succeeding. The same also applies to other rapidly emerging service providers. If you have a plan of getting a Chinese branch down your schedule, start planning *right now*. Do not treat China as just another country. It’s more like a parallel universe where things tend to be self-dependent and seldom go out. Always be prepared for your shadow self.

Article by Kane Gao, Illuminant’s Head of Research

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