A Chinese company caused the sportswear world to gasp at its logo unveiling last week – but for all the wrong reasons.
The newly launched Fujian-based company Uncle Martian’s logo is almost an exact replica of the elite Baltimore-based brand Under Armour’s current trademark.
Under Armour is a famous athletic apparel brand with many internationally known stars on its books such as dancer Misty Copeland, swimmer Michael Phelps, tennis great Andy Murray, model Gisele Bündchen, as well as a plethora of much loved American athletes such as grid-iron quarterback Tom Brady and basketball shooter Stephen Curry.
The similarities don’t stop there. Not only is the logo in the exact same trademark colors of red and white, but the distinctive logo design of a U with an inverted U chaining it underneath is almost pixel-perfect, except that if you zoom in, you can see that the chain effect has been achieved by curving the base of the letter upwards enabling the characters to be slightly separate.
Under Armour issued a statement saying they were aware of the Uncle Martian launch event, and taking steps. Company spokesperson Diane Pelkey said in an emailed statement to The Washington Post, “Uncle Martian’s uses of Under Armour’s famous logo, name, and other intellectual property are a serious concern and blatant infringement. Under Armour will vigorously pursue all business and legal courses of action.”
Concentrating its first offering in the sports shoe market, the company showed off a range of footwear that also sports that distinctive Under Armour-like logo printed conspicuously on the product. From a short distance away, the logo looks the same.
Uncle Martian aren’t hiding the similarities. They even posted a picture of the Under Armour logo on their Weibo page. The Chinese company appears to be trying to make it look less like a blatant rip-off, and more like a homage. One Twitter user pointed out that their Chinese name literally means “encore,” and their splash on their Weibo account is careful to use the word “encore” in its text.
However, The New York Times reports that the spectacular launch didn’t appear to be greeted with enthusiasm from Chinese consumers, but rather with skepticism and exasperation. Tired of being associated with rip-offs, copy-cats, and with being un-original and un-creative, the Chinese public lashed out on Uncle Martian’s Weibo page, with many giving it the Mandarin insult that roughly translates to pronouncing it “garbage” and then saying “next!” and others saying that the imitation is causing shame that is being exported abroad.
China has a history of copyright infringements including a fake Apple store, many fast-food restaurants with a familiar Colonel at the helm, almost exact copies of luxury cars, as well as products from “Adidos,” audio head-gear from “Sqny” and delicious chocolate cookies called “Borios,” perfect for dipping in milk.
But the copycat strategy is not without its allure for Chinese companies looking for a market share. Shanghai-based blog Shanghaiist pointed out that it was often a successful strategy, citing the example of the Segway copycat Ninebot eventually superseding and buying out the original Segway company.
The new foray for 25-year-old company, Tingfei Long Sporting Goods, is based in southeastern China, and was excited about its new footwear offering. The New York Times reports that it one of Uncle Martian’s executives, Huang Canlong, said the brand was going to have “high standards” and be associated with “comfort, excellence and innovation.”
[Image via Shutterstock]