Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Kiwi company fights for its name in Chinese market

New Zealand household products company ecostore has launched a legal challenge to protect its intellectual property in the Chinese market.

Chief executive and founder Malcolm Rands said that while trying to register the brand name in China he discovered it had already been taken.

"But we're in the game there and we're quite confident we can go ahead," he said.

Rands said the trademark issue would require a legal challenge in China, which was under way.

"[China] is the only place in the world where they can grab the name 'ecostore' straight off," he said.

"It's our mark that we register around the world because ecostore is such a common name .... nowhere else in the world is someone able to get the actual name 'ecostore' and this chap in the provinces in China managed to do that, so that's our challenge right now."

In 2012 Christchurch food manufacturer Cookie Time said it was "going to war" with a Chinese firm that had lodged a trademark application to use its logo.

Rands said another challenge ecostore faced in China was animal testing.

As well as sustainable dishwashing liquids and washing powders, the Auckland-based firm also markets personal care products such as soap, hand wash and lip balm.

Ecostore chief executive and founder Malcolm Rands.
Ecostore chief executive and founder Malcolm Rands.

Rands said all body products had to be tested on animals before they could enter the Chinese market.

"So if you see any major brands in China you know they're testing their products on animals," Rands said. "Of course that's a complete no- no [for ecostore]."

He said that while the company was yet to find a way around the animal testing requirements, China was a big opportunity for ecostore.

"The [middle class] tiger mums in China, which you know about, are just so paranoid about their children," said Rands.

He reckons Chinese parents would be keen to use ecostore laundry powder if they knew about the dangers of the chemicals used in regular products.

Ecostore's export markets include Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and the United States.

The company, founded as a mail order business in 1993, reported sales of about $30 million in 2012.

- NZ Herald

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