A Chinese company is furious over a French-owned business that allegedly copied their well-established sneaker brand.
Feiyue, which translates to “fly forward,” has been a household name for Chinese monks and martial arts students since the 1920s. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, all martial artists in the opening ceremony wore Feiyue shoes. Moreover, they are also worn by secondary school students in gym class. The sneaker brand successfully captured the necessity for simplicity and durability that athletes everywhere required.
Those were the qualities that attracted Patrice Bastian, a marketing and events manager who bought a pair while learning martial arts in 2005.
But Bastian was not just another fanatic. He loved the product so much that he thought of bringing the brand to France.
He followed his ideal and worked with a Chinese manufacturer in 2006. However, in the following year, this manufacturer notified Bastian that they could no longer supply the numbers he needed.
Yet Bastian did not give up and requested to buy the brand registration so he could continue producing Feiyue shoes through other factories. The manufacturer’s manager agreed, so he went to trademark “Feiyue” in France and the United States. Since then, the brand has enjoyed their unprecedented global popularity:
“Bringing together all walks of life, from workers, Shaolin Monks to politicians, Feiyue crossed borders and generations to land in France in 2006. Without losing any of its authentic vintage charm, this lightweight canvas shoe then underwent a series of transformations. Its DNA gradually evolved, combining French and international influences.”
Apparently, the only place left unsupportive of Bastian’s brand is — you guessed it — China.
Liu Qinglong, manager of Shanghai Da Fu Rubber Co, told South China Morning Post:
“They’re robbers… No one in China knew about commodity intellectual property rights at the time and it wasn’t until 2007-08 that we found out the French had registered the trademark.”
Da Fu is the mother company of Double Coin, the original maker of Feiyue. According to Liu, he’s been working at the company since 1979.
As it turned out, Bastian had difficulty identifying Feiyue’s real owner at the time he tried to acquire rights:
“The main issue is that many people are claiming the right to this brand in China. So it’s very difficult to work with one owner. I wanted to have a unified brand. My dream was to partner with the real Chinese owner.”
For Dr. Li Yahong, a University of Hong Kong professor who specializes in intellectual property law, it boils down to territorial and firsthand application of the trademark:
“As long as the Chinese company has not registered its Feiyue mark in France, the French company can register it in France without getting anyone’s approval, and its registered mark is protected in France.”
This means when Chinese brand Feiyue is sold in France or anywhere else where Bastian registered the brand, they would be considered counterfeit. Bastian is, however, open to a partnership.
For Liu, it’s a difficult pill to swallow, “Why would we work with them? They just came to take our stuff away.”