The Beijing Intellectual Property Court upheld its injunction on Monday to stop Global Star China Media, the previous Chinese partner of the original series creator and rights owner of The Voice, Talpa Global, from using the Chinese name of the popular TV talent show The Voice of China.
It is the first preservation that a Chinese IP court has issued so far.
The verdict deals solely with pre-litigation preservation and the ownership of the TV program's Chinese name and rulings on other outstanding issues are still pending further investigation, according to the court.
Star said it respects the court's decision and will announce the new name of its reality show in the near future, Xinmin Evening News reports.
The verdict came after a heated debate between Star and Talpa's current partner Zhejiang Tangde, which also goes by the English name Talent International, at a hearing on June 29.
Shanghai-based Star acquired the copyright of The Voice from Dutch TV producer Talpa and produced a Chinese version of the show, which became a national sensation after its debut on Zhejiang Satellite TV in 2012. The show's popularity continued to grow over the following three years.
The partnership between Talpa and Star soured, however, after the two companies failed to reach a new agreement on licensing fees and other terms.
Just as Star was preparing to produce the fifth season of the show, Talpa authorized Zhejiang-based Talent to produce seasons five through eight.
Talent filed a complaint against Star and another Chinese company with the Beijing court, claiming 510 million yuan ($76.5 million) in damages. It also obtained an injunction from the court that ordered the Star to stop using the Chinese name of The Voice of China, although the other terms of the dispute were not ruled upon.
Star's CEO Tian Ming told the court at the hearing that the deal between his company and Talpa is still in a negotiation period.
"It is a primary issue of the sequence in terms of legal authorization," he said. "The authorization granted to Talent is currently invalid."
The Chinese name of the program, The Voice of China, was born in China - it was created by Star and Zhejiang TV, he said, adding the fact that the original series was produced overseas and has an English name makes no difference. The Voice of China is a separate entity.
Generally, imported TV and radio programs are given Chinese names for better adaptation to the domestic market.
"It is hard to separate the original shows from their Chinese name, as they are already associated and indivisible, unless they are already intentionally in separate use, and they have each established their own reputation," a senior IP attorney, who asked to remain anonymous, told China Daily.
Tian said, "This year, our program's format, mode, stage design, production and promotion have all changed, so we can hardly be accused of infringements. It's far from infringement on mode."
Wu Hongliang, board chairman of Talent, told local media that the Talpa format was in large part responsible for the huge success of The Voice of China.
"Many so-called original programs merely discard some signature elements of the program they are emulating, while the rest remains largely unchanged, with, perhaps a slight change in form. Let's wait and see what happens," Wu said.
"From a legal and administrative perspective, it's important that there is a serious attitude towards piracy, or emulation, as far as radio and television programs are concerned, or else TV market development as a whole will suffer," he added.
Talpa CEO Pim Schmitz said at a press release in June that his company has not adjusted its China plan in light of the trademark dispute, which he considers "normal" and "part of the business".
Source: China Daily