One of the Trump administration’s goals in their ongoing trade negotiations with China has been a sea change in how intellectual property is handled. Progress has been made, with China agreeing to stiffen penalties on the misuse of intellectual property.
With the new pledge in place, Shannon Lee felt it was the perfect time to strike. As head of the California-based Bruce Lee Enterprises, Lee has filed a $30 million dollar lawsuit against Real Kungfu, a fast food chain that has been using Lee’s likeness for 15 years. The Guangzhou-based restaurant has over 600 outlets in 57 Chinese cities.
When Real Kungfu first used the logo—which features a man in a yellow shirt in Lee’s classic “ready to strike” pose—the company sought and received approval from Chinese authorities, although never communicated with Bruce Lee Enterprises. The restaurant chain issued a statement saying, “We are baffled that after so many years we are now being sued, and we are currently energetically studying the case and preparing our response.”
In addition to the $30 million, Shannon Lee is seeking legal fees and asking the fast food chain to issue 90 days of clarification stating that the company has nothing to do with Bruce Lee. The lawsuit also demands the company immediately stop using Lee’s image.
Whether the Chinese courts will honor the fifteen-year-old approval from their own authorities or move to appease the new US trade agreement will be a good indicator of where China actually stands on intellectual property issues.