05 Jun 2015

Taking action against shadow companies in Hong Kong

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Shadow companies – the problem

A shadow company is a Hong Kong-registered company that uses a famous brand or company name as part of its own name, whilst being totally unconnected to the brand owner.

Shadow companies are normally used as fronts to allow individuals behind them to trade off the reputation of a brand owner’s name in the PRC. 

The key elements of a shadow company are:

a it has registered a name which incorporates the name of a well known brand;
b its director(s)/shareholder(s) are PRC individuals;
c its company secretary is a secretarial company which will usually incorporate the shadow company and provide its registered office address; and
d it will authorise a separate PRC entity, which is often connected to the individuals behind the shadow company, to use its name, claiming authorisation from the brand owner.

In our experience, the shadow company will register their registered office address as their place of business with the Inland Revenue so that they have a Business Registration Certificate, giving the illusion they are trading in Hong Kong. 

In addition, the shadow company may also apply for a Hong Kong trademark under different classes to those used by the legitimate brand owner. 

Shadow companies pose substantial risks of financial and reputational damage to brand owners.

What can you do as brand owner?

The first step would be to send a cease and desist letter to the shadow company demanding they stop infringing your intellectual property rights. The threat of using court proceedings may cause the infringement to cease and the director of the shadow company to change the company name. 

If no response is made, the next step would be to issue court proceedings against the shadow company. 

Once a writ is issued it is unusual for the shadow company to defend the proceedings. Normally default judgment and an injunction can be obtained within 2 months of proceedings being issued.

The last step, after an injunction has been ordered, would be to serve the injunction on the Companies Registry. The Companies Registrar will require the company to change its name within 6 weeks of being informed of the injunction. In the event the director does not change the name of the shadow company the Companies Registrar will arrange for the company’s registered number to be substituted in place of its name.

How we can help

We have a 100% success rate in applying for and obtaining injunctions for our clients against shadow companies demanding passing off and trademark infringement. We will then arrange for service of the injunction on the Companies Registry to ensure a forcible change of name.

Our clients include well-known multi-national companies and brands in sectors such as healthcare, clothing and financial services, many of which are active in the PRC. Where we need to act against more than one infringer we are able to give a discount on our fees.
 


 

在香港起诉影子公司


影子公司问题

影子公司,即在香港成立注册的冒用知名品牌公司名称为自己的公司名称,但实际上与品牌公司完全无关的公司。

影子公司通常是一个空壳,它背后的个人借用它在内地盗用知名品牌公司的名气来经销商品。

影子公司有如下几个特点:

1 用包含知名品牌的名称来注册公司;
2 其董事或股东为中国公民;
3 它的公司秘书通常会经办公司成立的手续并为其提供注册办事处地址;
4 它会授权另一个与背后的个人相关的大陆公司或组织来使用影子公司的名称,并假称有真名牌的授权。

在过往的案例中,影子公司通常会用它们的注册办事处地址当作办公地址在税务局注册一个商业登记证,造成它们在香港有实际经营的假象。

除此之外,影子公司还可能在香港注册一个与真品牌的商标类别不同的商标。

因此,影子公司对真正知名品牌的拥有者会造成极大的经济和名誉损害。

真正品牌拥有者可以怎么做?

第一步,向影子公司送达禁止信函,要求它们停止对贵公司知识产权的侵害。影子公司的负责人可能会因为害怕禁止信函中所提及的针对影子公司的法律诉讼而更改影子公司的名称,或者停止侵害行为。

如果没有回应,下一步会是向影子公司提起法律诉讼。

一旦颁发诉讼令状,一般情况下影子公司是不会应诉的。通常,在开始诉讼后2个月内会拿到缺席判决书和禁令。

最后一步,是在禁令被颁发之后向公司注册处送达禁令。公司注册处会在收到禁令6个星期内要求影子公司更改名称。 如果影子公司负责人不更改影子公司的名称,公司注册处会用它的公司注册号码来替换它的名称。

我们能做什么

在过往我们为客户申请禁令来禁止假冒和商标侵权的案例中,我们100%可以成功获得禁令。获得禁令后,我们还会安排向公司注册处送达禁令来确保影子公司的名称会被强制更改。

我们的客户包括知名跨国公司和品牌,业务领域包含保健,服装和金融服务。其中很多公司在中国大陆业务非常活跃。若我们授权处理的影子公司不止一个,还将会在律师费上作以优惠。

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Jezamine Fewins

Jezamine Fewins
Partner

T:  +852 2533 2877 M:  +852 6083 5525 Email Jezamine | Vcard Office:  Hong Kong

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