Zespri International said it has become the first New Zealand company to be granted key trademark protection status in China.

The kiwifruit marketer said its status was granted last week by the Shanghai Intellectual Property Bureau, thereby ensuring greater protections against copyright infringements.

Zespri joins a number of other famous international brands such as Disney and Ferrero Rocher in receiving the designation, which affords Zespri greater protection against trademark infringements.

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The company said it is the only New Zealand and only fruit brand to be recognised in this way.

"This is a strong acknowledgement of Zespri's high profile among foreign brands in China as well as our strong market share and our positive corporate reputation in one of our most important markets," Zespri's general manager Greater China, Michael Jiang, said in a statement.

"This recognition also reflects the challenges Zespri is facing with counterfeiting in China, including with the unauthorised growing of our Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit variety there, and is another demonstration of the support we've received from Chinese authorities."

Key brand protection status is designed to strengthen the legal and administrative tools available to approved companies to fight the challenges to intellectual property – efforts which we have been incredibly well supported by the Chinese Government.

It also means Zespri will now be able to take legal action against brands using similar names and those using packaging designs which copy Zespri's, as well as allowing action against companies using the Zespri name for product categories outside of fresh fruit – an action which was previously unavailable.

While the status has been afforded by the Shanghai government, the updated list of protected brands has been circulated throughout China with a request that other provinces and cities give priority to protecting the protected brands.

The Shanghai Intellectual Property Bureau will also proactively co-ordinate with other local regulators to support Zespri's brand.

"This is a key milestone for Zespri in Shanghai and a crucial step towards achieving nationwide recognition, and is the result of significant investment by Zespri and in efforts to build the brand in China," Jiang said.

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Zespri is supplied by 2800 kiwifruit growers in New Zealand and around the world.
Zespri has invested heavily in building Zespri a world-leading brand and in developing intellectual property, including new varieties like Zespri SunGold.

"The Shanghai key trademark recognition will also give Zespri the means to take action against people trying to use Zespri copycat brands to sell Zespri's SunGold variety grown without authorisation – a key focus for Zespri," Jiang said.

Mt Maunganui-based Zespri's global operating revenue came to $3.1 billion in 2018/19. Zespri is owned by current and past kiwifruit growers.

Zespri said last November that it was pursuing legal action in China to stop the spread of pirated kiwifruit cuttings.

- Staff Reporter