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'Peter's' publisher in copyright quarrel
2003-09-10
Peter Rabbit, a comic figure widely known in English speaking countries, has become the focus of the publication industry recently.

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Press, which published a series of four Peter Rabbit books, was ruled by local industrial and commercial organization to have infringed upon the trademark owned by Frederick Warne & Co Ltd from the United Kingdom.

The industrial and commercial organization in Beijing's Xicheng District not only withheld 23,000 Peter Rabbit books published by the press, but also decided the press should pay an administrative penalty of 350,000 yuan (US$42,000).

Peter Rabbit was created by the late American writer Beatrix Potter, who died in 1943. Potter had created 19 Peter Rabbit serial stories, and painted the illustrations of Peter Rabbit herself.

According to copyright law of the People's Republic of China, copyright protection extends until 50 years after the death of the writer. Therefore, in 1994 after the books entered the public domain, Frederick Warne & Co Ltd registered the trademark of all the illustrations of the Peter Rabbit series in China.

This April, the company found that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Press used the illustrations of Peter Rabbit on the cover of the book series, and thus appealed to the industrial and commercial organization.

After being ruled to have infringed on the registered trademark and subsequently forced to halt sales, the press filed a lawsuit against Frederick Warne & Co Ltd in June, asking the Beijing First Intermediate People's Court to confirm that the series of Peter Rabbit books had not infringed on the trademark of the defendant.

But the case has not gone to court yet.

"The Peter Rabbit case is a good example teaching some Chinese publishers to protect the rights of others and themselves as well," said an anonymous official with the National Copyright Administration.

The Press' lawyer Dun Mingyan told China Daily the publisher believed using the illustrations was an action "in good faith," and additionally the industrial and commercial organization had made mistakes in determining the facts and applying laws.
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