2006.02.27

Intellectual Property Right Protection Convoy Corporate Development -- Case study: How Tencent is defending its intellectual property rights

Tencent defends intellectual property rights and recoups the RTX domain name

Real Time eXpert (RTX) is a real time corporate communication platform launched by Tencent to help enterprises improve their operation efficiency lower communications costs and facilitate business opportunities. This IT platform is known for its high manageability low cost and easy deployment. As one of its new technologies and brands Tencent filed a trademark application with the Trademark Bureau of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and obtained a registration certificate for the trademark "RTX" on May 14 2005.

Soon after this registration Tencent discovered that a company based in Wuxi had preemptively registered the domain name "rtx.com.cn". For Tencent this action not only infringed upon its trademark but also misled the public into believing this website to be the official website of its RTX product offering.

To put a stop to this infringement Tencent submitted on September 5 2005 a letter of complaint to the DomainNameDisputeSolutionCenter of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC). After more than a month of arbitration the CIETAC validated Tencent's claim and announced its decision on October 25: the domain name rtx.com.cn should be transferred to Tencent.

Through this legal recourse Tencent was able to protect its intangible asset and protect its customers from potential transaction fraud.

CRBT piracy case ends in favor of Tencent

In September 2005 when the State Copyright Bureau made "special action to fight network piracy" Shenzhen Municipal Copyright Bureau investigated and punished a case of serious illegal practice against the Copyright Law and infringing network distribution right. Tencent had discovered a Shenzhen technological company had been using and allowing download these songs voices and pictures for which Tencent had exclusive distribution rights or that Tencent had independently contracted the composition performance and recording of without Tencent's authorization and permission. After two months of investigation and evidence gathering Tencent submitted a well-documented claim to the Shenzhen Municipal Copyright Bureau. In the face of the considerable amount of evidence against them the Shenzhen company admitted its copyright infringement accepted the Copyright Bureau's administrative penalty paid a heavy compensation to Tencent and made a public apology.

It's reported thatTencent has signed contracts with various major music companies such as Universal Music EMI Group SONY-BMG Warner Music and Rock Records for over 100000 licensed songs and music of which 15000 songs are used for Tencent's exclusive Coloring Ring Back Tone (CRBT) service. Currently China's domestic Internet CRBT market is not yet well regulated allowing many Internet companies to infringe others' rights or pirate others' works and generally disregard intellectual property rights. In this particular case of CRBT piracy Tencent was able to defend its legal rights fight piracy and facilitate effectively the guidance and self-discipline within the industry.

QQ is not a common term in chatting – Tencent takes abusiveness to court

On June 7 2005 Tencent filed a petition to the People's Court of Haidian District Beijing against a Beijing-based technology development company for what it believed to be illegal use of its "QQ" trademark and penguin logo. For Tencent's legal counsel this constituted an infringement of its trademark and competition by inappropriate means. Tencent requested the Beijing company to cease this infringement and compensate Tencent in the amount of RMB 1 million. This was the first time for Tencent to prosecute for copyright infringement and mark the start of Tencent's campaign to defend and protect its intellectual property rights.

Tencent's QQ IM service is well known and widely used by Internet users in China for instant text and video messaging. Certain companies have launched commercial offerings in the market referencing QQ such as "Telephone QQ". Some voice message centers even misled consumers by launching a telephone QQ business with the name of "QQ Chatting with Passions".

The investigation has revealed that the defendant in this case is the Beijing company specializing in telephone voice messaging system development. This company has branded its voice message chatting system "Telephone QQ" and currently enjoys approximately 30% of the domestic market share.

To date the court has held its first hearing of the case and a decision is pending.

Jin Municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce of HunanProvince defends Tencent's rights by investigating and punishing a publisher

In accordance with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce's Action Plan for Protecting Exclusive Rights of Registered Trademarks the Jin Municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce in Hunan conducted an inspection of the publication market in June 2005. The inspection found that a Jilin publishing company had published a magazine entitled QQ Internet Show using the "QQ" name and the penguin logo on its cover and table of contents. According to the investigation the publishing company printed the trademarks of "QQ" and the penguin logo in prominent sections of the magazine without the authorization of Tencent attracting and seriously misleading numerous readers.

Jin Municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce found this action to be an exploitation of another company's trademark and brand recognition for profit resulting in the spreading of highly misleading information to a large number of readers. As a result of this investigation all undistributed copies of the magazine in question have been confiscated and the publishing company has been fined to protect Tencent's legal rights.

Tencent has declared that it attaches great importance to the intellectual property rights protection of its trademarks "QQ" and the penguin logo. To actively protect the QQ trademark Tencent plans to devote considerable human and material resources to fighting and prosecuting any infringement of its trademark rights and copyright.

QQ code theft is a crime

Experts advise consumers: "Don't become an accessory to Internet crime"

Recently the verdict of China's first QQ code theft case came into effect drawing a lot of public attention. Convicted of stealing and selling more than 130 QQ codes two defendants were sentenced to six months imprisonment and confiscated the illegal earnings for more than RMB 60000. The verdict is significant in that it classifies QQ code theft as criminal behavior punishable by the law. The court is saying that not only people stealing and selling QQ codes will be punished by the law anyone developing QQ code piracy software or making such software available for download is committing a criminal offense and is subject to criminal punishment.

As the Internet becomes more and more an integral part of people's social lives instant messaging communication plays an increasingly important role in Internet user communications. As China's most widely used IM software QQ with its features of speed stability and convenience has become an important communication tool among Internet users. Similarly to "outstanding numbers" that mobile phone users can purchase for the phones short easy to remember and meaningful QQ codes are an increasingly rare and desirable resource. As a result many groups and individuals are illegally selling QQ codes on the Internet. Even software that facilitates QQ code theft can also be downloaded. For a user that has been using a QQ code for years the loss of their code causes immeasurable damage in the same way that a person who loses his mobile phone loses a great deal of contact information.

Yu Guofu a lawyer and seasoned expert says that according to Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Resolution for Safeguarding the Internet Security (approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on December 28 2000) "Illegal interception seizure tampering or deletion of other people's e-mail and data is an infringement of a citizen's communication freedom and confidentiality and are to be investigated and held criminally responsible in accordance with respective regulations."In this case the two defendants as QQ users with extensive knowledge of Internet and computer programming were found to have tampered with the passwords of more than 130 QQ codes preventing their original users from contacting others with their codes. The defendants' actions were found to be punishable under Paragraph 2 Article 4. In light of this decision Mr. Yu warned that those who had stolen and sold others' QQ codes should cease this behavior to avoid criminal prosecution. Websites that make QQ code theft software available for downloading or that host black market of QQ code transactions are in fact providing tools and a market for criminal activities and as such will very likely be subject to prosecution in the near future.

Today as the Internet plays a more and more important role in people's lives Internet crimes are attracting an increasing amount of attention. The online world is not separate from our real life. Those who believe that stealing and selling QQ codes is not illegal would do well to change their ideas. To prevent QQ codes from being stolen Tencent has adopted several measures such as password protection security center and password input via virtual keyboard. However criminals can still steal QQ codes in various ways such as deceit peering and tracking keyboard strokes during password input. Therefore QQ users should be on their guard. If they discover that their legal rights and interests have been infringed QQ users have the right to report the theft to security authorities and request protection.