Dell Loses Trademark Suit in China

According to The Beijing News, via Rich Kuslan’s blog, Dell lost a suit against a research institute over the fact that its name sounds too much like Dell’s transliterated name.

Transliterated?

If this term is new to you, it is “phonetic translation” — such as creating a name in Chinese that, when spoken, sounds just like your brand name when spoken in English. It is especially important that the resulting text convey a positive meaning — or at least not a negative meaning.

Any multinational that has long-term consumer market aspirations in China needs to transliterate its name so it can better promote itself — and better protect itself. And you can register this transliterated name as a Chinese-language URL.

But transliteration can be a very tricky business. Pacific Epoch writes briefly about this Dell suit; the two names in question certainly appear similar in English — De Er vs. Dai Er — but not too similar, according to the powers that be.

Sometimes a company will mis-translate as it rushes to enter a market. KFC and Pepsi have provided two humorous examples. According to this article on the art of transliteration:

KFC’s “finger-lickin’ good” slogan entered the China market as “eat your fingers off.” Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation”spent a short time in Taiwan as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead” before the F&B giant went into damage control.”

Such is the crazy, complex world of transliteration and IP protection in the Wild Wild East.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.