Friday, July 8, 2016

Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA?: A Possible Example of Multiple Trademark Infringement in China

In a post about how Disney's new resort in Shanghai and what it says about both American and Chinese influence, I shared a photo of a shirt I saw two years ago in Hengyang, Hunan:

shirt with a mouse/panda-like head shape filled with an American-flag themed design

I chose the photo because the Mickey-Mouse-like shape on the shirt appears to incorporate the design of the national flag of the U.S. However the shape isn't a perfect match to the standard Disney's Mouse Ears Mark; for example, the ears aren't the same shape and proportion.

Disney's Mouse Ears Mark
Image source
Perhaps the designer failed to execute the design or deliberately made the difference in the hope to avoid violating trademark laws.

There was another possibility, though, which seemed at least as likely and caused me to hesitate before using the photo in a post about Disney. The shape on the shirt is also similar to a head shape used by HIPANDA — a Chinese fashion brand which has received international attention.

HIPANDA's online store at Tmall currently sells a shirt with a similar American spirit and sparkly design:

HIPANDA shirt with American flag design

Other HIPANDA shirts with a Stars and Stripes design are available as well, including this one:

HIPANDA shirt with flag of the U.S. design

The silhouette of the head on the Hengyang shirt doesn't perfectly match the standard HIPANDA head either, though I would argue it is a closer match than with Disney's Mouse Ears Mark. Presumably it isn't an official HIPANDA shirt.

So was the designer of the Hengyang shirt trying to imitate Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA? Or was the designer aiming for something which could be interpreted as either? I am not aware of any trademark disputes between Disney and HIPANDA, yet both might take issue with the shirt's design which fits into a space between Disney's Mouse Ears Mark and the HIPANDA head silhouette.

Whatever the designer's intent, the Hengyang shirt's design could be interpreted as "Disney". And other aspects of its design suggest American influence. It was the most compelling example I could find in my photos without great effort. So I went ahead and used it in the Disney post, although I wondered if I would receive any critical response (I did not).

Since then, I have seen shirts with more clearcut examples combining Disney and American influence themes. And shirts with designs reminiscent of the American flag, like the HIPANDA examples, have been a common sight in China. I have also recently seen many people wearing shirts with Mickey Mouse designs — a number of Donald Duck sightings as well. I am willing to bet at least some of the shirts don't have Disney's official blessing. More about all of these shirts later.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More Questions Related to Disney's New Park in Shanghai

Advertisement for the Shanghai Disney Resort near an entrance to Guomao Station in Beijing
Advertisement for the Shanghai Disney Resort near an entrance to Guomao Station in Beijing

A few weeks ago I posted about how Disney's new resort in Shanghai isn't only a sign of American influence but of Chinese influence as well.

Since then I have been thinking about questions such as:
  • How much of the resort's "distinctly Chinese" aspects are a result of appeasing government officials' worries about American cultural imperialism versus tailoring the park to best meet visitors' needs and desires versus creating a unique park?
  • To what degree were Chinese officials more or less concerned about American cultural imperialism compared to having a park distinct from Disney's parks elsewhere in the world?
  • Do the localizations conflict with visitors' desires to have a Western / American experience?
  • Exactly how much of an effort has China made to reduce piracy specifically affecting Disney and how effective has it been?
  • Will Disney open a Beijing roast duck restaurant with Character Dining including Donald Duck?
In future posts, possibly scattered among others, I will touch on some of these questions and related issues. I will also say more about the shirt in the earlier post's photo. I nearly didn't use it and was careful with how I described it (or didn't describe it). Notice why?

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Game of Xiangqi in Beijing

Along Gongmenkou West Fork off of Fuchengmen Inner Street in Beijing, yet another game of xiangqi:

Men discussing a xiangqi game in Beijing

Men looking at a xiangqi game in Beijing

Man making a move in a xiangqi game in Beijing

Contemporary Art on Display Outside the Parkview Green in Beijing

The Parkview Green in Beijing has much contemporary art on display not only inside but outside as well. I will share one or three examples depending on how you count them by artist Gianni Dessi (Italy, born 1955). Dessi titled the set created in 2015 Three For You. Individually, they are titled Red Sculpture, Black Sculpture, and Yellow Sculpture. In addition to brief information about the artist and the pieces, a poem is provided. I will share it below in all caps since that it is how it is displayed.

This raises the question: "Why not four?"

OK, the photos. In addition to capturing the art, they also capture a bit of life in Beijing.

"Red Sculpture" from "Three For You" by Gianni Dessi in front of the Parkview Green in Beijing
Red Sculpture

"Black Sculpture" from "Three For You" by Gianni Dessi in front of the Parkview Green in Beijing
Black Sculpture

"Yellow Sculpture" from "Three For You" by Gianni Dessi in front of the Parkview Green in Beijing
Yellow Sculpture

As a bonus, I will also share a photo of one of the several small marching soldier sculptures displayed outside. I didn't find any identification, but they look like works of Chinese artist Qin Fengling, whose piece Report inside the Parkview Green has apparently caught the attention of at least a few readers.

small sculpture of a marching soldier outside the Parkview Green in Beijing

Just something else to ponder . . .

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Beijing Sculpture Mystery Somewhat Solved

In the previous post with examples of contemporary art currently displayed at the Parkview Green shopping mall in Beijing, I was not able to identify the artist of one of the sculptures.

Salvador Dali's "The Michelin Slave" sculpture at Parkview Green in Beijing

One reader had a thoughtful suggestion for the possible artist, but I couldn't find match. After a variety of online searches, including using different versions of the photo, proved fruitless, I took another look at what appeared to be a signature on the sculpture's base.

Salvador Dali's signature on "The Michelin Slave" sculpture at Parkview Green in Beijing

If the signature used a creative style of Chinese characters, I was clueless, but it appeared to use letters from the Latin alphabet. My first guess was "X-something Li". I had found some artists with similar names but, again, no matches.

This time, though, I stopped thinking of the first symbol as an "X" and eventually a familiar name jumped out at me. It didn't take long after that for me to find several matching examples of "The Michelin Slave" (1967) by Salvador Dali. I also see similar examples named "Michelin's Slave — Can Be Used as a Car". In reference to a smaller version of the sculpture, LiveAuctioneers wrote:
For Dali, the slave imprisoned by tires symbolized the slaves who construct the Cadillac automoblie [sic] in the plants of General Motors. This piece is also known as Venus de los neumaticos.
So it seems to be yet another intriguing choice for a piece of art displayed at a shopping mall.

I am not sure of the meaning of the letters below the signature and wonder whether they indicate the sculpture is a reproduction of some type. According to a fascinating in-depth article on Artnews, "The Dalí Sculpture Mess", the status of this sculpture might not be a simple issue. The lead paragraph:
A flood of posthumous sculpture by Salvador Dalí­ generates millions of dollars in annual revenue—but the artist’s connection with much of the work is unclear. The market is rife with unreliable information, disputed ownership claims, unauthorized editions, and legal conflict. At least two European police investigations are under way.
From one question to another . . .

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Contemporary Art on Display Inside the Parkview Green in Beijing

Some readers may still be wondering about the intended meaning of the sculpture in the previous post, and some may be wondering about its location. I have ideas but no definitive answers for the the first question, but at least one reader correctly guessed the photo was taken at the Parkview Green shopping mall in Beijing. Even if you have no interest in or money for luxury shopping, the mall is worth a visit for its remarkable architecture and numerous pieces of contemporary art. The bathrooms have fancy toilet seats too.

Photos of nine of the works on display inside the mall during a recent visit appear below with some bits of symmetry in their ordering. I have only listed the artists' names because sometimes the works' names weren't clearly displayed, at least anywhere I looked. In one frustrating case, I have not even been able to identify the artist — any help welcome [update: mystery solved]. Although none of them were as surprising to me to find in a Beijing shopping mall as the piece in the previous post, I found them all provocative in their own ways.

Chen Wenling

Roberto Barni

Unknown Salvador Dali

Shen Jingdong

Huang Mingzhe

Huang Yulong

Ichwan Noor

Lee Seung-koo

Chen Wenling

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pondering the Writing Selection at a Beijing Museum

Lu Xun (September 25, 1881 — October 19, 1936), "a leading figure of modern Chinese literature", has had many fans in China, including Mao Zedong. At the Beijing Lu Xun Museum, the description of a piece he wrote less than a month before his death caught my attention in a way similar to a book I saw displayed at a Beijing bookstore.

exhibit at the Beijing Lu Xun Museum of a piece of writing by Lu Xun
On September 21, 1936, Lu Xun wrote For Future Reference III in which he chided self-deceit in Chinese characteristics, urged his fellow countrymen to see films and read books criticizing China. "We should read this, reflect and analyse ourselves to see whether he has said anything correctly or not, then make reforms, struggle and change ourselves without asking others for their forgiveness or praise. So we shall prove what the Chinese are really like."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mountains from Houhai

Exiting a metro station wasn't the only time clear skies and good air in Beijing caught my attention recently.

a dusk scene at Houhai in Beijing with mountains visible in the background
A clear view at Houhai

After an intense and at times slightly painful hailstorm the previous day, I took my friends visiting from the U.S. to Houhai. While standing on a small bridge over the lake, I looked at the horizon and exclaimed "I can see the mountains!" I excitedly explained to my friends that air pollution often makes it impossible to see these mountains from central Beijing.

They looked at me with expressions I probably would have had years ago. It was understandably hard for them to share my excitement since the mountain scene itself, though pleasant, wasn't especially glorious from our vantage point and my comment mostly made them think about Beijing's pollution.

I will refrain from sharing more photos featuring recent clear skies in Beijing. But after some posts on other topics, I won't refrain from sharing photos of unexpectedly clear skies in another northern city.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Moment of Blue Skies and Good Air in Beijing

When I see people excitedly mention blue skies in Beijing, I typically have conflicting feelings. On one hand, I feel happy they are enjoying a beautiful sky. On the other hand, I find it regrettable that the moment is so special in part due to air pollution.

But I felt only amazement after existing Beijing's Dongsi Shitiao metro station a couple of weeks ago and seeing a blue sky with clouds that look normal to me though not to everybody in China. Blue skies don't always equal good air quality, but in this case the pollution levels were good according to U.S. standards for both short term and long term exposure. The sky and air were quite a change of pace from the heavy pollution on the day I arrived from Hong Kong and many other days I have experienced in Beijing.

So here are a few photos from a moment which shouldn't have been so remarkable but was.

blue skies above the intersection at the Dongsi Shitiao metro station in Beijing

blue skies and clouds reflecting off a building at the intersection above the Dongsi Shitiao metro station in Beijing

blue skies and clouds reflecting off a building at the intersection above the Dongsi Shitiao metro station in Beijing

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Umbrellas on a Dull, Rainless Day in Beijing

A scene today at the intersection of Fuchengmen Inner Street and Jinrong Street in Beijing:

female with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses riding a scooter and two others carrying umbrellas on a cloudy day in Beijing

The sky wasn't sunny for most of the day and the air pollution was noticeable. Yet I still saw people carrying umbrellas or taking other steps useful for avoiding a tan despite the low chances. I have no new comments to add, so I will simply mention earlier posts about the umbrellas I saw on a rather smoggy day in Changsha, Hunan, and how the desire for whiter skin might be a factor in China's large number of people with vitamin D deficiency.