The Chinese Gadfly, Part 1

September 4, 2005, 10:25 PM

I got to bed a little earlier last night, but it was only after I composed and sent a response to my latest source of irritation.

Late Friday, a Chinese company sent an email to me by way of claiming that my use of the phrase “dragon beard candy” runs afoul of a trademark they registered in 2001 in China. Somehow, the 2000 years of prior use as a common phrase (in Chinese) got past the Chinese trademark authorities; perhaps they considered it a novel usage since they registered the mark “Dragon Beard brand cotton candy” in English rather than Chinese.

Translations of common phrases are, to my knowledge, not well protected by trademark law, but the more amusing thing is that they are making a claim against a phrase that existed in English in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore for a fairly long time prior to their registration.

Also, their company, “Nutra-Swiss,” does not appear to have any trade presence in the United States. They don’t have much to protect; if a trade name is not in active use, it’s not protectable, and this should be doubly true for a weak mark. These days, their online presence appears confined to search engine spamming and domain name resale, although I do recall seeing some photos of some artificially-colored plastic tubs of cotton candy on some trade directory last year. I’m not selling cotton candy or even comparing my product to their artificially-colored goo anywhere on my commercial site, since it’s irrelevant to my market.

I expect there may be one or two more rounds of email, after which I’ll probably publish the entirety of the exchange here for popular amusement. They don’t show a very sophisticated understanding of trademark law.


I needed to take advantage of leftover ingredients today. I still had a bit of ricotta in my refrigerator, which would not likely survive much longer than today; it was still in decent condition. I also had some tomatoes, onion and mushroom, in addition to a bit of parmesan. It turned out that Central Market, where I did my matcha latte demo today, had a little sale on manicotti shells, which is quite fortunate, since I had already thought of making manicotti on my way to search for pasta. I was lower on tomatoes than I remembered, so rather than incorporating the mushrooms into a filling, I made them part of the sauce, which was heavy on onions, deglazed with a little fume blanc, and seasoned with garlic and basil. I chopped the roasted peppers into confetti and included them in the ricotta-parmesan filling.


For a dish which was composed primarily as an excuse to use up ingredients, it turned out fairly well. The wine and mushroom sauce turned out more interesting than the tomato sauce I had planned. But I only have about 6 weeks left in Washington’s tomato season…

Technorati tags: China, trademarks, law