Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), the parent company of popular brand Penfolds, has secured a landmark win in China’s highest court against Penfolds copycat ‘Rush Rich’ after six years of legal battle spanning courts in Australia and China.
Based on the ruling by Supreme People’s Court , TWE received the favorable judgment that Rush Rich’s registration of the Chinese character mark for Penfolds Winery – 奔富酒园– is invalid.
The decision was made on the grounds of bad faith and Rush Rich’s illicit conduct in registering a large amount of trademarks for a range of renowned global luxury brands, including Penfolds and Bentley.
The judgement comes after six years of litigation and enforcement against the Rush Rich group of entities, primarily in China and Australia, in response to their attempt to exploit the Penfolds brand.
Founded in 2016, Rush Rich is owned by Eastern Tomorrow (Jinjiang) Import & Export Co, and has a winery production in Adelaide called R&R Winery, where it sourced bulk wines and bottled them under labels that resemble the look and feel of Penfolds.
Penfolds Managing Director Tom King applauded the court ruling and thanked Chinese authorities in protecting brand owners.
He said: “We welcome the judgement by the Supreme People’s Court of China and thank the Chinese authorities for their continued support in protecting the rights of luxury brand owners. Penfolds has a long and proud heritage in China that’s been protected and nurtured since the first bottle of wine was exported from South Australia to Shanghai in 1893. Our long-term commitment to China, together with international legal protections to prevent infringement of our trademarks, gives our consumers the confidence to continue enjoying award- winning quality wine from the Penfolds collection.”
Anna Olsen, Global Director of Intellectual Property for Treasury Wine Estates, said “Protecting the integrity of our historic brands against trademark piracy and misappropriation has always been a global priority. We’ll spare no effort to protect our brands and will pursue our rights to the highest courts where necessary. This case shows we won’t tolerate attempts to exploit and infringe the intellectual property rights and reputation of brands in the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio.”
TWE was once Australia’s biggest wine exporter to China and Penfolds was arguably the most known imported wine brand in the country. Its massive gains in the Chinese market were reversed by China’s harsh punitive tariffs as the two countries’ relations sank to historical low.
Timeline of Penfolds V.S. Rush Rich
March 2016 | TWE submitted complaint to China’s trademark office to invalidate Rush Rich’s Chinese trademark.
August 2018 | Beijing IP Court ruled in favor of TWE
April 2019 | Shanghai court also ruled against Rush Rich for unfair competition and false advertising, and ordered it to pay TWE RMB 1.4 million (US$198,000) in compensation.
November 2019 | Beijing High Court overturned rulings by Beijing IP Court
August 2022 | Supreme People’s Court handed TWE a win against Rush Rich, capping the 6-year-long legal battle spanning Australia and China.
LAWSUITS IN AUSTRALIA
February 2018 | TWE filed a lawsuit in Melbourne federal court against Rush Rich for selling lookalike Penfolds wines.
May 2018 | Rush Rich filed a cross claim in Australia
May 2019 | The federal court in Australia ordered Australian company Rush Rich Winery to immediately cease production of wine with any mark “substantially identical with or deceptively similar to” Penfold’s Chinese branding and a fine of nearly AU$400,000 to TWE.