As the online magazine The Drum reported yesterday Supreme Italia would have lost the Supreme brand trademark on the Chinese market.
After the Samsung-gate in December 2018 and the opening of two stores in 2019 in Shanghai, the brand is fighting with Supreme NY over the trademark registration of “Supreme” in China. The news was picked up by international newspapers such as Hypebeast and Highsnobiety, but it doesen’t seem accurate: Supreme Italia currently does not own any brand license for Supreme, the only thing that happened is that the trademark registration office – the China Trade Mark Office (CTMO) – refused the registration “ITSupremeNow“.
IBF has released a public press release in which it denies the news and underlines the legitimacy of its work in China:
“The International Brand Firm ltd has not lost any trademark in the Chinese land of those legitimately used, the brand of which misleading news is reported is ‘ItSupremenow’, which was not and is not at the center of IBF’s interests. Invia commenti Cronologia Salvate Community.” – IBF
The legal situation has therefore not changed as both Supreme Italia and Supreme NY have made many requests (about a hundred) to register the “Supreme” brand in various forms, but for now none have been accepted yet.
The legal battle on the Chinese front has just begun: Supreme NY has for some months changed its public strategy by directly attacking IBF and Supreme Italia in the press and with one of the rare interviews by James Jebbia, who for the first time came out in the open about the case
The legal battle in the land of the fake market
Let’s start with safe things: the situation is pretty complicated and it will not likely be come to an end quickly.
At the moment, neither Supreme NY nor Supreme Italia owns a trademark registration confirmed in China, which is the most permissive global country regarding the fake market (there are entire cities whose economy is based on the production of replicas of big brands). Chinese law is still evolving on trademark registration: on one hand there is a tendency to favor who already operates on Chinese territory (IBF), on the other hand the legislators are trying to introduce a corrective – which will be in force starting from November 2019 – to give more protection to international and recognized brands that seek to register the brand.
Despite the pressures of Supreme NY lawyers, the New York based brand is in an awkward position: it does not have a location in China and does not even deliver products, so it is legally inactive on Mainland China. Supreme Italia has the advantage of being already active in China, although its products are replicas to the original products of the brand founded by James Jebbia and even some phrases by Barbara Kruger are present in the store, the artist who first designed the boxlogo. According to a legal expert contacted by nss magazine, the most likely scenario is that the issue will hardly be solved in the coming months, except for unexpected twists.
Supreme NY lawyers are focusing resources and media attention on China, despite Supreme Spain stores are open and active in Madrid, Barcelona, Ibiza and Formentera. In the rest of the world, Supreme is trying to register the brand in all possible markets, has collected waste from Denmark, India and Syria as mentioned in the IBF press release. Supreme NY is making China a matter of principle for the volume of business that represents what is the largest market in the world. On the Chinese territory there are hundreds of store that sell Supreme fakes but still no one had come to challenge the brand from a legal point of view.