Do courts allow sponsorship of events as proof of brand awareness?
Build evidence to show brands are well known


With the growing excitement for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the highly anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar by the end of the year. While athletes who give their all on behalf of their country will no doubt be in the spotlight, billboards at sports venues displaying various major global brands as sponsors often become a highlight of the competition in addition to the Athletics.

“Event sponsorship marketing” is a brand marketing approach by which a company finances a social event or a cultural or sporting competition of public interest or having entertainment value. Not only does it help in shaping the corporate and brand image of a company, but the company gets an opportunity to get its brand or products seen by consumers residing in a wide area through various listened to activities and competitions by tens of millions or even billions of consumers worldwide at relatively low cost. With this approach, a company is able to embed a positive brand image deep into the minds of consumers. When consumers identify with a sponsor’s brand, the extent to which consumers are willing to purchase branded products will be greatly enhanced. The effect of such advertising is far superior to that achieved by any conventional advertising method such as print media or television.

The aforementioned benefits show that event sponsorship marketing in today’s society has become a trend, an indispensable marketing approach for various big brand or business owners. Sponsorship is no longer just giving money. In order to make advertising highly effective and foster customer brand identification, large brand or business owners carefully select contests or activities that are suitable for their products when making sponsorship decisions. For instance:

  • sportswear suppliers sponsor large-scale sports competitions;
  • companies manufacturing nutritional supplements mainly sponsor charitable activities related to medicine and health care; and
  • jewelers and cosmetics brands often sponsor fashion weeks.

By sponsoring activities and contests that share similarities in the nature of the product offered and overlap in customer base, brands achieve the advertising and marketing goal of broad consumer recognition of their brands and products. This is the central objective of sponsoring activities and competitions by entrepreneurs.

Do courts allow sponsorship of events as proof of brand awareness?

In trademark litigation practice, event sponsorship is believed to be a useful tool in establishing the well-known status of a trademark. However, administrative judgments by the Intellectual Property and Trade Tribunal (IPC) over the years have mostly dismissed event sponsorship as evidence of a trademark’s well-known status, primarily for the following reasons:

  • A contest or event that takes place in another country is not necessarily known to domestic consumers.
  • There remains some doubt as to whether the brand in question will be seen by domestic consumers even if they are watching a contest or sponsored event taking place in another country.
  • In event sponsorship, the brand is not presented in conjunction with its designated products in front of consumers. Therefore, a trademark featured in the sponsored contest or event only gives consumers the impression of a sponsor’s brand. Consumers have no way of knowing which products are symbolized by such a mark.

The IPC Court’s position means that business owners who spend money, time and effort to accumulate brand recognition and identification through sponsorship for marketing purposes cannot benefit from the fruits of their efforts, namely brand protection. As such a position offers less than satisfactory trademark protection, it is debatable whether it is appropriate and fair.

Build evidence to show brands are well known

Consumer knowledge of the brand
Article 30-1(11) of the Trademark Law provides the following:

A mark may not be registered in any of the following circumstances: (11) The mark, being identical or similar to the mark or well-known mark of another, creates a risk of confusion or misidentification by the public concerned.

The determination of whether a mark is “well-known” – as set out in the Guidelines for Examination for the Protection of Well-Known Marks under Section 30-1(11) of the Trade Marks Act – must be based on the perception of domestic consumers. However, even if a mark has never been used in the country or its actual domestic use is not widespread, it can still be considered well-known if there is objective evidence showing that the reputation of the established mark through extensive use in other countries has reached Taiwan. .

According to the Guidelines on Examination for the Protection of Well-Known Marks, “objective evidence” must include:

  • invoices, distribution documents and import/export documents for goods or services bearing the trademarks;
  • details such as sales figures and market share of goods or services; and
  • domestic and foreign publicity material from mass media (e.g. newspapers, magazines and television), including information on:
    • ad size;
    • the amount of money spent on advertising;
    • the volume of advertising; and
    • evidence (e.g. requests for placement of advertisements, recordings of television advertisements and advertisements on the sides of buses, at bus stops, in train stations, on highway billboards, on shop signs and on roadside billboards).

Although such evidence does not directly show use of the subject mark on its designated goods or services, the mark may be considered well-known domestically so long as the evidence is sufficient for domestic consumers to recognize and know the notoriety established by the brand thanks to its extensive use in other countries.

Therefore, the key to whether a mark is well known is whether it is known to domestic consumers, not whether the mark has actually been used domestically.

Purpose of Event Sponsorship
Event sponsorship is an advertising method by which various major brand or company owners sponsor contests or activities that are suitable for their products to achieve the goal of widely bringing consumers to recognize their brands and products. These brand or business owners and the activities they sponsor have overlapping audiences or consumers. To attract their attention, brand or business owners will, of course, try to make their brands and products as widely known as possible by simultaneously displaying their trademarks and their main line of products on billboards they sponsor, or by distributing samples of products bearing their trademarks at events. With media coverage and airplay in various countries, brand or business owners can actively distribute press releases in target markets and countries. Such efforts will then be sufficient for affected consumers located thousands of miles away to learn about sponsors’ brands and products.


Whether corporate sponsors can submit evidence that is considered objective evidence, as provided in the Review Guidelines for Well-Known Trademark Protection, to prove that the competition or event held in other countries sponsored by the owners of brands or companies has been covered by one or more national news outlets, it will be considered that this competition or event organized in other countries is known to national consumers.

In the meantime, if other objective and appropriate evidence is also presented, the court must find that relevant domestic consumers can see the business owner’s mark through broadcast or media coverage and learn about the products symbolized by the mark. This evidence could include:

  • a screenshot of the event’s national broadcast in which the brand or business owner’s brand and products are displayed;
  • a national press release for the contest or event held in other countries sponsored by the business owner in which the sponsored brand and branded products are mentioned; Where
  • a photo showing the event with the sponsor brand and branded products,

Such a conclusion can meet the trend of brand marketing through sponsorship of events by brand or company owners and can protect well-known brands.

For more information on this subject, please contact Audrey Liao or Clair YW Gao at Lee and Li Attorneys at Law by phone (+886 2 2715 3300) or email ([email protected] Where [email protected]). Lee and Li’s website can be accessed at


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