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Moutai's title of 'national alcohol' rejected by State

After four years of effort, renowned Chinese alcohol brand Moutai failed again in its ninth attempt to register trademarks using guojiu, meaning "national alcohol", although the company has used the term in promotional slogans for years.

The Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce recently announced its decision to reject Moutai's application, saying it would lead to unfair market competition if the company possessed the trademark, because the expression "national alcohol" implies that Moutai is the best liquor in the nation.

In 2010, the company filed four applications with the same title of guojiu used for several kinds of alcoholic drinks. They passed the initial examination in July 2012.

Industry insiders said if Moutai succeeded at last, it would exclusively own the title of national alcohol, and many other businesses would follow suit, leading to a rush of trademark registrations for national cigarettes, national tea, national milk and so on.

"It is improper for some words or images to become trademarks because they have special meanings or implications," said Zhao Hu, a partner at Beijing-based EastBright Law Firm. "They may have some association with national dignity or social morality.

"The trademark implying national alcohol could be used as a tool for unfair competition, suggesting that it is a nationally-supported brand and that the products' quality and taste are guaranteed by the government," Zhao said.

Zhu Danpeng, a researcher at the China Brand Research Institute specializing in the food and beverage business, said the rejection of the guojiu trademark showed the "increased professionalism and market awareness of the Chinese government".

The company's first attempt to register such trademarks was in 2001.

"Despite failure at the trademark office, the registration has already succeeded in the hearts of consumers," said Yang Guang, chairman of Beijing-based consulting firm ZhengYiTang Marketing & Consulting. "Moutai's continuing efforts to register the trademark through the years is protective - to prevent its competitors from acquiring the title."

He added that in a way, the failure is good news for Moutai, as it will no longer need to worry about other distillers applying for the "national alcohol" trademark.

An executive at Moutai's planning department said that the rejection would not bring negative influence to the company or harm Moutai's status as one of the top liquors in the nation, according to International Financial News.

Source: China Daily