Pfizer loses Chinese Viagra Trade Mark

25 April 2007

Shirley Kwok

Pfizer’s Viagra is popularly referred to as “Wei Ge” in China. “Wei Ge” was the subject of a trade mark application by Welman Company (Guangzhou, PRC) to the Chinese Trademarks Office for registration in Class 5 for (among others) “medicines”, back in June 1998. There is no evidence as to who initially created the “Wei Ge” Chinese name, meaning “great brother”, yet it is much more widely associated with the US company’s anti-impotence drug than “Wan Ai Ke”, the name under which Pfizer markets its Viagra pills in China.

In 2005, Pfizer filed a lawsuit claiming that since the mass media had associated “Wei Ge” with its Viagra pills since 1998, “Wei Ge” has become an unregistered famous trade mark in China. Pfizer sought an injunction against Guangzhou Welman from continuing to infringe its unregistered famous mark; statutory damages in the sum of RMB500,000; destruction of all “Wei Ge” trade mark labels and a public apology/announcement to remove the adverse effects of the wrongful acts committed.

In December 2006, the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court held that even though the mass media had reported on “Wei Ge” and its effects, sales conditions, side effects, etc., the use was not made by Pfizer and therefore Pfizer could not prove that “Wei Ge” is Pfizer’s well-known trade mark.

Pfizer announced that it had filed an appeal in February 2007.

A search on the Chinese Trademark Office’s online records reveal close to 20 applications/registratons for “Wei Ge” in Class 5 alone, and about 70 in all classes, by a number of different parties.