Treasury Wine wins China trademark dispute for Penfolds flagship

SYDNEY, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates has won a legal dispute in Beijing over its right to use the “Ben Fu” trademark in China, a transliteration for its flagship Penfolds brand, the company said on Thursday.

The judgment, handed down by Beijing High People’s Court, found that a Chinese individual who had registered the Ben Fu trademark in 2009 had “failed to demonstrate any genuine use of the trademark for wine or related business activities,” Treasury Wines said in a statement.

“This trademark will subsequently be cancelled, allowing for TWE to claim its right to ownership of the Ben Fu trademark registration and to freely use this trademark across China.”

China’s intellectual property protections are often perceived as quite lax but they are steadily improving, lawyers say.

While Apple Inc in May lost a battle for the use of the “iPhone” trademark on leather goods, Facebook won a dispute against a local beverage manufacturer that had filed in 2011 to label certain foods and beverages “face book”.

Melbourne-based TWE, which also owns the Wolf Blass brand, posted annual net profit growth of 131.2 percent to A$179.4 million ($138 million) in 2016, underpinned by a 76 percent surge in sales by volume to China, Korea and Japan.

Treasury recorded earnings before interest and tax of A$342 million for the financial year, compared with its guidance of A$330 million to A$340 million. (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)