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Neutrik and Soundking clash over connectors

Ningbo manufacturer responds after bailiffs are sent on to its Prolight + Sound booth to remove products deemed in breach of copyright, writes Dave Robinson.

Ningbo-based equipment manufacturer Soundking has responded to a press statement issued by connector giant Neutrik concerning a trademark dispute and subsequent confiscation of goods during Prolight + Sound last month.

Neutrik AG took its “most effective action against a product copier so far” in Frankfurt, the Leichtenstein-based company said in the 29 March press release. In an action brought against Ningbo Soundking Electronics and Sound Co, Ltd, Neutrik claimed that the Chinese manufacturer had made unauthorised use of its speakON trademark, as well as offering a product range “which bore a substantial part of the integrated design” of Neutrik’s proprietary componentry.

Frankfurt/Main District Court found in favour of Neutrik, and subsequently the disputed products and related advertising material were removed by bailiffs from the Messe (pictured, photo supplied by Neutrik). According to Neutrik, Soundking was also immediately “obliged to reimburse legal costs of several thousand euros” at the show.

Approached by PSNEurope for a reaction to the Neutrik statement, Soundking said it wished “to make known [its] surprise and disappointment that Neutrik AG made its accusations unilaterally in a press release, without prior legal notification to the Soundking company”. Soundking – parent company of celebrated brands Cadac, Studiomaster and Carlsbro – said it “fully respect[s] the intellectual property rights of other parties” and “believes in and practises the value of partnership and fair competition”.

The company added that it is now seeking legal advice to resolve the issue.

Neutrik’s statement (March 29th):

“So far it has been Neutrik’s most effective action taken against a product copier: based on an injunction, Neutrik AG succeeded in defending their trademarks consistently by having cleared parts of Soundking’s booth at the Prolight + Sound 2012 in Frankfurt/Main a few days ago.

“The Chinese manufacturer Soundking from Ningbo had repeatedly promoted their products by the unauthorised use of Neutrik’s protected trademark speakON (confiscated goods photo supplied by Neutrik); in addition Soundking had offered their own product range consisting of connectors which bore a substantial part of the integrated design protected by Neutrik (sinusoidal wave surrounding the cable bushing). The District Court in Frankfurt/Main came to the conclusion that Soundking first infringed Neutrik’s trademarks and second committed an offence within the definition of misleading commercial activity that may create a mistake of product and origin. All relevant connectors and advertising material available at the booth of Soundking were confiscated by a bailiff, removed from the fair by a forwarding agent and will be destroyed soon. In addition Soundking was obliged to reimburse legal costs of several thousand euros which had to be paid immediately on-site.

“‘Neutrik AG does definitely not accept any infringement of their trademarks. Therefore, all measures which serve the purpose of defending our registered trademarks are simply consistent,’ says Werner Bachmann, CEO.”

Soundking’s response (April 6th):

“In a press statement dated 29 March 2012, the board of directors and the management of Neutrik A.G accused Soundking of infringement of its trademark and patent at the Frankfurt Prolight + Sound exhibition. The board and management of Soundking company wish to make known their surprise and disappointment that Neutrik A.G made its accusations unilaterally in a press release, without prior legal notification to the Soundking company. We emphasise that Soundking company and its subsidiaries fully respect the intellectual property rights of other parties and, in turn, seek to fully protect its own.

“Soundking has insisted on investing no less than 5% of its annual income per year as development funds and put more than 150 research engineers in its R&D department for product development. We repeatedly design our own core technology. Up to this present point in time, Soundking owns both in the domestic market and internationally 21 Invention patents, 45 utility model patents and 76 appearance design patents. A further 62 patents are currently in the process of application.

“As a responsible company, regardless of where you operate from, respect must be given to local laws and regulations. Soundking believes in and practices the value of partnership, board cooperation and fair competition.

“Intellectual property is one of the most valuable assets to any company. Regardless of where any infringement occurs, we will do our best to protect our assets and safeguard our lawful rights. Soundking is now working with our legal advisors to realise and solve this issue. While this is being solved, we are still looking forward to a long term cooperation based on mutual benefit and trust.”