September 22, 2005

Clinton and Lewinsky Condons

Snapshots In My Time...
Of My Time.....Hauntings.

BEIJING — A new line of condoms is grabbing headlines in China even as its sparks a debate about trademark law and promotion campaigns. The products' brand names: "Clinton" and "Lewinsky."

The condoms are sold in boxes of 12, with the brand named after former President Bill Clinton priced at $3.70 and that of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky at $2.25.

Guangzhou Haojian Bioscience Co. said it registered both trademarks and is pricing the brands differently to reflect the higher quality of the Clinton line.

"We chose the name because we think Clinton is a symbol of success and a man of responsibility. And Lewinsky is a woman who dares to love and dares to hate," said Liu Wenhua, the company's general manager.

"We haven't told Clinton about this yet, but maybe you could help us find him," Liu added. "We'd like to tell him how respected he is in China, so we can boost his confidence and help his career."

Liu said he settled on the Clinton name after a year of research sparked by the news that the former president had been named to head an international initiative to combat HIV and AIDS. Some of the other names he considered and rejected included "First Night," "18 Years Old" and "I Miss You." They didn't have the same aura of respectability, he said.

Liu added that because the names were registered with the central government's trademark office, he didn't anticipate any legal problems.

But Zheng Zhangjun, a trademark attorney with the Fengshi law firm in Beijing, said given Clinton's fame and the evident intent to use it for commercial gain, the former president would have a good case to register the name as his own and thus block Liu from using it. The registration process normally takes a few months and costs around $35.

"Just about every foreign company operating in China faces this kind of problem," said Allan Gabor, chairman of the intellectual property rights committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. "In some ways, using Clinton and Lewinsky's names is a creative twist on an old story."

In December, China strengthened its judicial interpretation, giving foreigners greater protection against those trying to steal their patents, trademarks and copyrights. But companies and other offended parties need to bring the cases to court, and that's the catch. In Clinton's case, taking that step might only give the company more publicity and undercut the former president's reputation.

"That might be part of a calculated strategy," Gabor said. "I doubt either Clinton or Lewinsky are going to do too much."

Despite Guangzhou's questionable legal standing, advertising and public relations executives said they had to give Liu grudging credit for his strategy. He's offering a product that is in growing demand after China's grudging public acknowledgment in recent years that it has an HIV/AIDS problem.

Even the stodgy state mouthpiece China Daily ran a long article about the company on its front page.

On one point, however, the company may have even crossed China's wooly line on what is acceptable. In another bid to attract attention, the company has included adult jokes and Kama Sutra-style "instructional" drawings in each package. The Guangzhou city government said those are against the law.

Liu said adult jokes, many involving Chinese double entendres, fit with Clinton's image.

"Clinton is not only successful, he's also humorous and loves life," Liu said. "Jokes mean you should love life."


  1. Well I guess there are all kinds of definitions of success . . . and this COULD qualify as one.

    I particularly like this quote,

    "We'd like to tell him how respected he is in China, so we can boost his confidence and help his career."

    I didn't know the man had a confidence problem. Go figure.


  2. i like that quote too me stauss. it is kind of crazy.

  3. there is not a confidence problem there! :)