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The story of how Supreme managed to register its trademark in China

By purchasing an unknown brand made in 1997: the legal battle with Supreme Italia continues

The story of how Supreme managed to register its trademark in China  By purchasing an unknown brand made in 1997: the legal battle with Supreme Italia continues

According to a report made by WWD reported earlier this week, Supreme has finally managed to register its trademark in China.
The news was taken up by many publications - from Hypebeast to The Fashion Law - reporting that it is a historic victory for Supreme in the war against fake goods and in particular against Supreme Italia, the brand born in Bisceglie (Puglia) and controlled by IBF which has challenged the legal use of the brand's box logo in courts across the world. The news of the registration was not supported by any official document and until a few months ago it seemed impossible that anyone (IBF, Supreme or third parties) would have ever managed to register the Supreme box logo
Registering a trademark in China is very complicated: the Chinese system is constantly evolving and above all, there are thousands and thousands of applications for the registration of "Supreme". In addition, the James Jebbia helmed brand does not have any store on the Chinese territory nor does it ship products, it is formally inactive in China while the thousands of companies that produce products with the Supreme box logo invade these Chinese market.
Many European and American brands face the problem of registering their trademark on the Chinese market, but the lawyers of Chapter4 - the holding firm that controls Supreme - being unable to use the classic legal procedures, have used an alternative way - clever but legal - paradoxically very similar the regulatory vacuum that started Supreme Italia.

So how did Supreme register the trademark?

The Chinese system uses the first-to-file method (whoever first submits the registration application has the right to the possession of the trademark) and for this reason, it was impossible to assign that of Supreme among the thousands of requests that crowds the China Trade Mark Office (CTMO). 
However, Chapter 4 and Carlyle lawyers - the fund that bought 50% of Supreme in 2018 for $500 million - resorted to an alternative method which attorney Robert Williams explained to nss magazine:

It is possible that they used a method commonly used in China: find the owner of an earlier brand and buy it. You can therefore say that your new brand is only a variation of that previous brand, even if you had nothing to do with it until then. 

Despite the difficulties in accessing the data of the Chinese administration, the editorial staff of nss magazine managed to prove that Chapter4 is actually the current owner of the "Supreme Horse" brand originally registered in 1997, even though during this time Supreme was still an underground reality of New York and Chapter4 was not even founded. As stated in the public records, "Supreme Horse" was in fact registered by the Shenzhen Guanlan Songyuan Hefen Clothing Factory based in Shenzen. 

What will change in the battle of legit fake?

The answer, in short, is little from a practical point of view, but it can be the beginning of the end of this battle. 
Registration in China will not lead to the disappearance of the Supreme fake products - of which there are thousands of manufacturers and retailers in China - nor is it a sign of the intentions of the brand to open a physical location on Chinese territory. However, this is a symbolic victory - celebrated by international publications - against IBF and Supreme Italia which, as reported by Hypebeast, has already shut down the megastore which opened just a year ago in Shanghai.
In fact, although the registration will not have great practical consequences, this is an important legal consolidation that takes Chapter4 out of the grey area of Legit Fake, which is what allowed IBF to find out about Supreme Italia in the first place and then to eventually open Supreme Spain stores in Spain.
With the end of the Hype era, the probable opening in Milan and the legal victory in China, Supreme could be well on its way to defeating Supreme Italia and putting an end to one of the most incredible pieces of fashion history which happened during the past five years.