Christie's auction business sues Chinese rival Chritrs over similar sounding name
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Wednesday 14 November 2012
Christie’s is locked in a legal battle in the world’s largest auction market claiming an Asia rival is cashing in on its prestige by using a suspiciously similar sounding name.
The global auctioneer has taken action against Chritrs Group in Hong Kong’s High Court, a case which echoes one won by fellow global player Sotheby’s four years ago.
The Chinese auction market has become the largest, overtaking New York and London, although sales have slowed down this year.
Christie’s took legal action after a query over whether a sale by Chritrs was actually one of theirs. The accused company’s name in Chinese is pronounced the same way as Christie’s in the country. The two, which both read Ja Shi De, are also written the same except for one character that is pronounced the same.
Christie’s legal chief Mathilde Heaton said at last month’s hearing that the plaintiff was “deliberately” looking to confuse bidders with the brand name. “We take it seriously as we must protect the public and our clients from being confused and deceived,” she said.
The defence admitted the pronunciation was the same, but countered that its marketing was mainly done in print, where there was a difference in spelling. Chritrs is registered in Hong Kong and believed to have been in operation for several years.
The company’s website said the group has more than 10 offices around the world including China, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as London, New York and Taipei.
Madam Justice Queeny Au Yeung Kwai-yue is yet to hand down her judgement after Christie’s demanded an injunction against its rival along with unspecified damages.
Christies has subsequently placed adverts in three Chinese-language newspapers to warn buyers that Chritrs was taking advantage of the similarity in names.
Christie’s said its Hong Kong operation brought in £519.1m in 2011 out of total revenues of £3.6bn. It has been based in the region for almost three decades, and has a licensing agreement with Chinese group Forever.
In 2008, Sotheby’s won after suing Sichuan Su Fu Bi, which sounds similar to the Chinese version of the global auctioneer, and used the same characters in Chinese. Last year it faced other companies on the mainland looking to trade off its name.
Sotheby’s has set up a joint venture with Beijing GeHua Art Company, making it the first western company to sell art on the mainland.
With art sales estimated at $12bn, China overtook the US as the largest auction market last year. It accounted for 30 per cent of the market up from 23 per cent a year earlier.
Yet, the market has slowed this year, with some blaming supply, the slowdown in China’s growth as well as a customs probe into tax evasion on arts imports.
- 3 Alton Towers crash: Four seriously injured and 16 guests trapped as Smiler ride carriages collide
- 4 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Caitlyn Jenner's mother Ester thought her daughter, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, had transitioned for money
Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
Alton Towers crash: Four seriously injured and 16 guests trapped as Smiler ride carriages collide
Charles Kennedy dead: A guy once asked the Lib Dem leader who his favourite Muppet was and his letter response was wonderful
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...
£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...
£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...