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Do suppliers have any responsibility with regards to a well-known design trademark/copyright?

Posted: 2013-03-18

Full Question

I've worked on a toy design for almost 4 months and want a Chinese supplier to manufacture these toys in order to import them from China to Canada. However, after finding a Chinese supplier and waiting to sign a contract, they suddenly refused to continue because I refused to provide copyright license. I'm extremely disappointed. I would like to know if suppliers have any responsibility with regards to a known design trademark and copyright. For example, do I need to provide a copyright license to a Chinese supplier if I want to place an order for 3000 plush toy angry birds and import them to US or Canada?

Answer

I understand your disappointment, but the good news is that thanks to your supplier, you may have avoided a much bigger problem.

Actually, your supplier would be doing you a disservice if they went ahead and made the products and infringed on Angry Bird’s copyright licensing. If they had been unethical and failed to respect IP (Intellectual Property), you and the supplier would both be in danger. For example, when the product is exported out of China, the custom’s bureau will do random inspections and if your order is inspected, they could very well ask for a certificate from Angry Birds that you or the factory has the rights to manufacture and export. If you don’t have that piece of paper, your goods will be impounded, fine levied and you and the supplier will be put on a black list. If by chance your illegal product made it out of China, the same drama could happen when the goods are imported into the USA or Canada.

China is not well known for its IP protection, but during the past years the government has been getting more serious and exporters are finally starting to consider the risk of violating domestic and international IP. Angry Birds is a well-known global brand, so the risk of you and the supplier getting caught are that much higher.

BTW, have you contacted Angry Birds? Perhaps their licensing is not as expensive as you may think.

Here are some related articles for your reference:

Protecting your Intellectual Property

How To Protect Intellectual Property In China

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