Moutai withdraws appeal against China’s top trademark office

China’s most famous liquor brand, Kweichow Moutai, has withdrawn its appeal against China’s top trademark office after it denied the liquor company’s application to use the term “national spirit” for its products, ending nearly 20 years of legal wrangling over a term that the Chinese public has come to associate with the brand.

Despite often being described as “China’s national spirit”, Kweichow Moutai, the historic distillery that has a deep connection with China’s communist revolutionary history, never owned the trademark rights to the term.

Its latest attempt to obtain the trademark rights was rejected earlier this year by the country’s Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SIAC) for the tenth time since the company first started petitioning to register the trademark in 2001.

In a statement posted by Moutai this week, the company announced it had decided to withdraw the appeal from Beijing Intellectual Property Court, and apologised to The Trademark Office of the SIAC.

This came three months after the trademark office upheld its decision to reject Moutai’s application for ‘national spirit’ in 2016 on the grounds that the term would indicate that Moutai is the best liquor in the country and thus promote unfair market competition.

In 2012, the Trademark Office gave the case initial approval to proceed, but this led to fervent objections from more than 30 parties including fellow baijiu distilleries such as Wuliangye Yibin, Shanxi Xinghuacun Fen Wine Factory and COFCO Wines & Spirits.

In 2016, the trademark office ruled against Moutai.

Moutai, arguably the most revered baijiu brand within China, has been a staple at state banquets and is often presented as state gift to foreign dignitaries. Almost exclusively consumed within China, the popularity of Moutai has pushed up its market price to make it the world’s most valuable liquor brand, surpassing Diageo.

Having a mild yellow hue, Moutai is said to be the quintessential baijiu for the soy sauce type of aroma.

The throat-burning liquor was China’s first premier Zhou Enlai’s favourite. Not only was it the tipple of choice for Zhou to entertain state dignitaries, Zhou personally collected aged Moutai and once issued state directive to block any kind of chemical plant construction near Moutai for fear of water contamination.

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