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Branding Snowden: Chinese tech firm wants to trademark NSA leaker

Branding Snowden: Chinese tech firm wants to trademark NSA leaker
A Beijing-based electric car technology company wants to use NSA-leaker Edward Snowden’s name as a brand for their new ‘secret technology’.

Electric car technology firm Hong Yuan Lan Xiang (HYLX) submitted an application to the Chinese authorities to register the “Snowden” trademark in both Chinese and English, manager Hefeng Zhu told the South China Morning Post.

“We are talking with China’s domestic carmakers, and we aim to launch cars equipped with our technology by the end of this year,” Zhu told the South China Morning Post in a telephone interview on Friday.

HYLX considers their new ‘top-secret’ technology to be as groundbreaking as Snowden’s leaks. Removable batteries, conversion from fuel to electric, and expedited charging are some of the new products the company is offering, Zhu said.

“Snowden”, a brand already registered by several Chinese companies prior to the famed NSA leaks, may be denied on the basis it is too “political” as the name is considered a “sensitive” subject to Chinese authorities, according to Wang Hao, manager of Beijing-based Baishifuda Times Intellectual Property firm, told the Post.

Experts believe it could take 12 to 15 months for the patent application to be approved, Wang Hao said.

Unlike other patent law, a trademark can be used for multiple products, as long as the industries don’t overlap.

But since firms are allowed to register the same trademark under different “categories” listed by the country’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Chinese aren’t the only ones hoping to cash in on the former US intelligence agent’s name by registering it as a trademark.

Russian businessmen have attempted to register the image of the whistleblower’s face. Rospatent has three reported applications for the image of Snowden’s face, likely lifted from screen shots of his on-air interview with the Guardian.

"The desire of businessmen to make money on some media personalities is clear. If his portrait is recognizable, Snowden may challenge in court its commercial use and has all chances to succeed,"
Stanislav Kaufman, brand manager of ‘Putinka’ vodka told Russian Beyond the Headlines.

Celebrities often patent themselves to gain exclusive rights so their names aren’t used without permission in commercials or endorsements, but there have been no reports if Snowden filed a trademark for his own name.