Auctions Art law Market USA

Christie’s sues Chinese rival over similar name

Lawsuit highlights one of the perils Western salerooms face as they expand in the lucrative Chinese market

Chritrs website

Christie’s has sued a rival auction house with a similar name for infringing its Chinese trademark after receiving evidence that its clients were being “misled and deceived”.

Hong Kong’s High Court heard that Chritrs Group which, according to its website, has held auctions in Singapore and Hong Kong this year, goes by a Chinese name that is pronounced in a similar way to Christie’s Chinese brand name. The written form also shares one of the Chinese characters used in the translation of Christie’s.

Christie’s told The Art Newspaper it took seriously matters of trademark infringement and wanted to protect the public and its clients from deception. “We encourage clients and the public to exercise due diligence when selecting auction houses to work with,” the company said in a statement.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Chritrs argued that although the two company names were pronounced almost identically, the company’s marketing mainly took place in print form and not verbally, according to an account of the 4 October hearing published by the South China Morning Post. They added that collectors of fine art were capable of distinguishing between the two auction houses. Chritrs has offices in Hong Kong, Taipei, London, Japan, Singapore, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The legal proceedings highlight one of the perils Western salerooms face as they expand in the lucrative Chinese market. In 2008, Sotheby’s won a similar case against a Chinese company called Sichuan Sufubi, a transliteration of Sotheby’s Chinese name, that had been holding auctions in China since 2003.

Judgement in the Christie’s case will be on a date yet to be announced.

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