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Top grossing Chinese film sets a record

By Huang Ying (China Daily)

09:47, May 13, 2013

Xu Zheng (left) and Wang Baoqiang performing in Lost in Thailand, the highest-grossing Chinese film with record ticket sales hitting 1.26 billion yuan ($202 million). They starred in both Lost on Journey and Lost in Thailand. Now the producers of the latter face an intellectual property right lawsuit. (China Daily)

While the low-budget comedy Lost in Thailand has created a record in ticket sales among China's home-made film productions, it might produce another record, but in a negative way, especially for its producer - Beijing Enlight Media Co.

Wuhan Hua Qi Film & TV Production Co filed a lawsuit against Beijing Enlight Media in early March, claiming that it infringed the copyright of Wuhan Hua Qi's film Lost on Journey. It is claiming compensation of 100 million yuan ($16 million), probably the highest figure in an intellectual property infringement case in the film industry in China.

The plaintiff is a company registered in 2007 with a registered capital of 10 million yuan, according to information on its rough and ready website.

A total of four companies have been sued including Beijing Enlight Media. They are all producers of the film Lost in Thailand. Wuhan Hua Qi charged them with illicit competition and copyright infringement.

"Practitioners in the film industry have relatively weak awareness of intellectual property rights protection and very few companies would equip themselves with a complete team of lawyers in a film project or seek professional legal advice in advance," said Shen Zheyan, a cultural industry consultant with the Shenzhen-based CIC Industry Research Center.

"In general, they would resort to legal approaches to safeguard their legal rights after the infringements have taken place, which is liable to cause many legal disputes," he added.

In the civil complaint which Enlight Media has received from the Beijing High People's Court, Wuhan Hua Qi said Enlight Media carried out misleading promotions for Lost in Thailand on purpose, causing people to believe that Lost in Thailand is the sequel to Lost on Journey in an explicit or implicit way, according to the statement released by Enlight Media on March 7.

Lost on Journey is a comedy released in 2010. It earned about 50 million yuan in box office revenues. Hua Qi believes that Enlight Media has benefited from misleading audiences about the relationship of the two films and it pointed out in the complaint that Enlight Media's shares soared during the period when Lost in Thailand was being shown in cinemas. It had taken 538 million yuan in revenues from the movie by the end of Jan 27, 43 percent of its total ticket sales. The remaining 57 percent was distributed among other interested parties including the theaters.

Wuhan Hua Qi said in the complaint that a comparison shows the two films have many fundamental similarities, including their names, plots and actors' lines, that infringed the copyright of the original production. Xu Zheng and Wang Baoqiang starred in both of the films.

"Whether Hua Qi will win the lawsuit depends on the evidence it can offer but, normally speaking, the indemnity for copyright infringement is less than 1 million yuan in China," said Liu Yongpei, a director and partner in the intellectual property department of Yingke Law Firm's Shanghai Office.

If the evidence proves that Enlight Media's actions have caused Hua Qi losses or Enlight Media has benefited from what it has done, and at the same time the evidence is approved by the court, the compensation is allowed to exceed 1 million yuan, said Liu.

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