Economy

Moniker Mayhem: Overcoming The Great Wall Of Name Squatting In China

How do well-known foreign brands react when unscrupulous profiteers swipe their Chinese names?

"Ke-ko-ke-le"
"Ke-ko-ke-le"
Colombus

BEIJING — Bottega Veneta, the Italian luxury brand best known for its leather goods, recently renamed itself Bao-Die-Jia in Chinese. But because the Italian apparel has been commonly known by another Chinese homonym, Bao-Ti-Jia, the renaming caused some public outcry, not to mention enthusiastic debate on the Internet.

Bottega Veneta has refused to comment, except to say that it has never had an official Chinese moniker before.

But it is widely assumed that the Italian fashion house felt obliged to rename itself in Chinese simply because other Chinese businessmen had preemptively registered the name that was well known to the public.

In fact, many other successful foreign brands in China have experienced the same sort of so-called "name squatting". The only difference is that instead of recognizing the setback discreetly, they often resort to legal recourse.

Hermès was probably the first apparel company to encounter this dilemma. As early as 1977, the brand registered its English name and trademark in China — but not its Chinese one.

In 1995, a Chinese garment company swiped Hermès’ Chinese name, officially registering it. When Hermès realized this, it appealed to China's Trademark Review and Adjudication Board. Unfortunately, the company's complaint was rejected. When Hermès demanded a re-examination of the challenge, the committee didn't budge. Finally in 2009, Hermès was forced to register using another Chinese homophone.

According to Li Jingjian, an intellectual property lawyer, intellectual property rights do not enjoy transnational protection. The right of a trademark usually results from a registration, so the earlier that's done the earlier the name is protected.

But there is an exception: China’s trademark law stipulates clearly that Chinese companies are not allowed to register and use the trademarks of those well-known in China or internationally. “My advice is that a name be registered as early as possible,” says Li. It costs only 1,000 yuan ($163 USD) for the application, and the registration is good for 10 years. But once someone has squatted the name, it’s very costly to get it back.”

The most famous case of a name dispute in China involved the French fashion brand Louis Vuitton. The company fought three infringement lawsuits in China, including one with Wang Jun, a businessman from the central city of Wuhan. Wang had registered “Louyiveiten” and a broadly used Chinese homonym of the French house as well as the company's logo for handbags, tags, fabrics and accessories. His goal was not so much to copycat the brand, but to blackmail the company in the hope of becoming its dealer in Wuhan. Wang lost the case.

So it seems that the lesser-known foreign trademarks that failed to register in a timely manner all risked the misfortune of having to choose a fresh Chinese name. Apart from the brands with a short history in China, this occurs most commonly within the car industry. One typical case involved Lexus, whose household name here has long been Ling-zhi. It was forced to rename itself Lei-ke-sa-si, phonetically.

Others include Toyota’s Camry series being renamed from Jia-mei to Kai-mei-rai. And Land Rover was forced to rebrand itself from “Road Tiger” to “Continental Tiger.”

Are Chinese names really necessary?

Why do these foreign brands even want Chinese names? The Chinese are, after all, becoming better educated, and “Facebookis better known than “Lian-shu.Youtube has never had a Chinese name, and of course nobody really cares what Myspace is called in Chinese...

But Chinese naming is important for retail apparel.

That's because it brings a brand closer to consumers. In addition, a Chinese ideogram is far more significant than a series of English letters. Most foreign brands have very straightforward names based on the founder or the business. When they are translated into Chinese, the simplified phonetic transliteration and literal translation are the most common. Sometimes it is also a way of local marketing — an exotic homonym sends a message of authenticity.

On the Great Wall - Photo: Preston Rhea

Consider Coca-Cola. In English, coca and cola, respectively, represent the beverage’s two primary ingredients. But its Chinese name Ke-ko-ke-le (or delicious happiness”) conveys the idea that drinking it will bring enjoyment. (Naturally, another Chinese company name-squatted Coca-Cola in China, but the correct Chinese name is used in diasporas such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Based on the same naming principle, Diet Rite is called Jian-Yi (“healthily agreeable”) because the Chinese would prefer that over something that acknowledges obesity or is associated with diets.

Of course, the most interesting Chinese naming happens with car companies.

Before 1992, BMW was called Ba-Yi-Ma in China, a sort of shortened transliteration because its full name was too long and too dull for the Chinese public. But when it was finally renamed Bao-Ma, meaning “treasure horse,” it was instantly associated with the ancient treasure horse in Chinese history. The Chinese consumer didn't have to be told that the brand was luxurious, because the name said it all.

There are also family names that translate particularly well in Chinese. For instance, the Chinese name for Goldman Sachs is Gao-Sheng, meaning “highly prosperous.”

Choosing a good Chinese name for a foreign brand is difficult because Chinese pronunciation very often implies dozens, or even hundreds, of characters. “Not only is the translation important, but the translated name must be related to the brand itself. That is to say, it needs to make sense,” says an insider at a Beijing design company.

It’s not just an art to choose a brand’s Chinese name — it's a science. Third-party consultants, computers and linguistic analysis are all employed for the task. And before it is finalized for use, a market survey is typically conducted to ensure not only that the name isn’t lost in translation, but also that it's icing on the cake.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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