Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court has begun hearing a lawsuit against the nation's top consumer battery maker after it was charged with patent piracy by a little-known rival.
Dongguan Peagsus Battery Technology Co Ltd from Guangdong province filed the lawsuit against Fujian Nanping Nanfu Battery Co early this year, claiming that Nanfu used its patented packaging design without authorization.
Peagsus' Butress batteries have traditional Chinese pictures on their body and an opening on the back of the package so customers can spin and view the images without opening the package.
The simple design was granted a utility patent in 2006.
Peagsus said it found at the end of last year that the design was also used on Nanfu packages. It then sued the battery giant and retailer Beijing Wu-Mart, demanding they stop producing and selling the product and pay 1.2 million yuan ($189,360) in compensation.
Peagsus spokesman Lu Junfeng said the package design "is an important part of the company's core interest" because there is little product differentiation in battery technology.
"In the battery industry, technology is no longer a focus of competition as there is no big difference between manufacturers," he said. "Today, the competition is more about brand and cultural influences."
"The patented packaging of the Butress battery provides convenience to consumers, which conveys our people-oriented concept."
He said Nanfu's alleged infringement confuses consumers and damages his company's marketing, impacting its sales nationwide.
Lu added that Peagsus requested only a small part of Nanfu's revenues because "what we want is not just money, but to declare our own rights".
The defendants have not made an official announcement about the case.
Liu Yunlei, legal advisor for Peagsus, said the patent is the "lifeblood of the product" because the intellectual property "means market, profit and key competitiveness for the company".
Li Mengfu, professor at China University of Political Science and Law, noted that "smaller battery companies in China have paid little attention to intellectual property protection, but this case shows their awareness is growing".
Purchased by the Gillette Co in 2003, Nanfu has nearly 70 percent of China's battery market and has been the market leader for 13 consecutive years.
(China Daily 03/21/2012 page17)