Brand Breakdown 003 – Huawei

Brand Breakdown 003 – Huawei [image by
Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr]

There are a small number of companies in the world that earn a global status for the work that they do. These companies become household names and are recognised globally for what they do.

In this 3rd of our series breaking down world-beating brands we look at the Huawei.

This instalment follows prior entries looking at: Under Armour and Tesla.

Brand Breakdown 003 – Huawei

Huawei are a communications technology company headquartered in China. They are based out of the Chinese industrial innovation centre of Shenzhen, Guandong.

In totality, the company has produced a broad range of telecoms equipment, networking and associated services since its inception in 1987. In recent years, the company has become more prominently known for its consumer products.

Notably, the company overtook Apple as the 2nd largest seller of smartphone products worldwide in the third quarter of 2018 and looks set to continue to expand its global reach.

An infamous barrier to this expansion is the current embargo on Huawei products (and smartphones specifically) in the United States where carriers do not support the phone – allegedly due to political pressure.

It is unavoidable to not note that Huawei is a Chinese company that has benefited directly from government support in the past as a “national champion” and – as a consequence of China’s policy to closely support domestic business – is viewed by some in the US as a Chinese state actor.

Despite this, the brand is establishing a significant level of support around the rest of the world as its consumer products receive highly positive reviews.

With this being said, it is a critical moment for Huawei which, as a distinctly Chinese brand, now (like many other burgeoning Chinese brands) begins to communicate its core values more broadly to a Western and global audience.

It is within this unique context that this edition of Brand Breakdown looks at Huawei’s trade marks and the deployment of their brand assets in the UK.

Brand Breakdown: The Trade Marks

Huawei have several trade marks registered in the United Kingdom through a set of different entities. Aside from registrations for particular products, their principle registrations include their a logo that also includes the name of the company [UK00002403001] and their logo on it’s own [UK00002421758] see below).

Interestingly, the solitary logo was registered a year after the logo and text combo – which is indicative of a desire for additional protection beyond the scope of the first registration.

Both of these are registered in classification 9 which denotes computer hardware, software and (broadly speaking) digital communications technologies. To the untrained eye, this specification may seem narrow in that it neatly covers the principle offerings of the company – and nothing more.

Analysis: Messages, Meanings and Markets

Logo (and word mark)

Huawei’s logo (below) at first glance resembles: a flower, the rays of the sun, a tree with outstretched leaves or perhaps a clam or seashell.

As such, from a glance the visual impact of the logo has a fundamentally “natural” expression – and furthermore it’s sense of “reaching out” is inherently hopeful.

The softness of the shapes as they emerge from the negative space in the centre infers a benevolent growth, (compare this with Maersk‘s “spiky” logo for example). The structure that the negative space grants the composition provides both a symmetry and balance to the overall visual expression.

In addition to this, both the logo and the logo plus name include a circular gradient that creates a 3-D effect which is read by the eye as a light coming from above.

UK00002421758 Logo Mark, registered on the 12th of May 2006

In actuality (and minus the inferences above) the logo is based on a flower.

In Mandarin “Hua” can be translated as “petal” or “luxury/lavish”. “Wei”  is synonymous with “action” or “achievement” also.

As such – the inferences taken at first glance are reinforced, if not focused with this understanding of what the company name means in the company’s native tongue.

This is “lost in translation” issue is something many consumers face when being exposed to any global brand outside of its domestic context (and language). And the logo does much to express these concepts without words.

UK00002403001 Logo and Word Mark, registered on the 3rd of October 2005

Knowing the meaning behind the name however, elements such as:

  1. the “flower in bloom”-like design
  2. the “light coming from above”
  3. the balanced symmetry within the design and individual “petals” in the the process of “bloom”

Are each cast in a fresh light – representing Huawei’s ethos of sustainable and natural innovation and development.

Huawei’s old logo (above) was redesigned in 2006. 

Huawei’s old logo (above) featured many of the aspects present in the 2006 redesigned version we see today. But other elements are notably absent.

The current composition is more balanced, in that the text contains the consistent capitalisation, weighting and kerning (the old logo is notably “lopsided” with it’s capitalised “H” counternanced with a lower-case “i”.)

Further to this, the visual concept of the flower, and the “hua-wei” concept, is more definitively expressed – with a less linear sense of upward movement.

Bearing this refinement in mind and without the linguistic aspect, Western consumers will engage with a brand through its other expressions and touch-points. (Though it’s notable that the lack of descriptiveness here means that “Huawei” as a word mark is more distinctive in the UK than it would be in China. )

As such it is likely that the most beneficial course of deployment for Huawei is to simply “walk the walk” when it comes to fulfilling their nominal promise. The European CMO of the company notes this much when discussing the company’s marketing strategy across the continent.

Regardless the logo, despite the lack of comprehension of the etymology in the Western world, represents these values in abundance.

Why register the logo on it’s own as well?

It is notable that Huawei are principally protected in the United Kingdom with two trademarks, one purely graphical – and the other including their brand name.

One might ask why register the logo on it’s own, after it has been registered in the first instance with the name as well.

Here we might surmise that in the first registration the most distinctive aspect which denotes origin is – as you might expect – the name of the company that accompanies the logo.

As trade marks function principally as a designation of origin, the name within this particular configuration overrides the graphical “flower” as a denotation of the same.

As such, within this registration the protection that is afforded to the graphic element is secondary to it’s most distinct part – and would mean that registrations of similar marks (albeit minus the text) would have been more difficult to address.

As such, the supplementary registration make sense as this would protect the graphical brand asset in its solitary configuration. 

Why only one category?

Upon reviewing the registered trade marks that Huawei have in force in the United Kingdom, it was also surprising that they had registered their principal marks in so few classifications.

Whilst class 9 is wide-reaching in its coverage it is not common for a brand the size of Huawei to limit it’s registrations to its single core offering. In most cases, for example, a large brand will also seek protection in additional supplementary classifications – to protect clothing and other peripheral areas of interest.

Associate solicitor Lakmal Walawage comments on this unique approach to the company’s registration:

Sometimes you see trade mark applicants make applications with a very wide specification, in order to obtain the widest coverage and leave room for future growth and expansion into other markets. This may seem like a fool-proof strategy, particularly if you are planning for this growth to happen quickly. However, this approach may also leave the trade mark vulnerable to cancellation for non-use (at least in some classes), and may cause the owner to incur significant cost in dealing with such actions. It may also leave you with a diluted brand and without one with a strong foothold in any particular market.
 
An alternative strategy may be to focus your application on one mark, and really carve your space out in that particular market. Taking the Huawei example – the mark is registered only in class 9 as they are primarily a manufacturer of computers and mobile phones. Instead of expanding the specification to include for example networks solutions services (which they also seemingly offer in the UK – as per their website), they have instead focused on making two applications – one for the logo with the word element HUAWEI and one without the word element. One might imagine that their global reputation would allow for defence of similar marks in other categories – on account of registering both distinct elements.
 
It is also notable that the registrations are black and white – and as such that they claim no colour. By making the applications in this way, Huawei have obtained protection over both the word “HUAWEI” and the Logo such that others in the market will not be able to use a similar logo, even with a different word or brand, or in a different colour. The scope of protection afforded here may be more useful than in relation to the above, scatter-gun applications, given the lack of vulnerability and the potential for brand growth and recognition. By employing this strategy, Huawei may be carving out a bigger space in their core market, than spreading their resources over their ancillary services.”

Brand Breakdown 003 Huawei – Summary

Huawei’s burgeoning success worldwide provides an interesting litmus test for high-end Chinese brands who will soon become increasingly prominent  outside their borders in the coming years.

This comes as a result of China transcending it’s prior reputation in manufacturing goods for others, and producing impactful world-wide brands of their own.

Whether or not companies like Huawei seek to localise their brand for Western markets, in order to make sure that contextual aspects are not lost in translation (as might be seen here) remains to be seen.

Regardless, it seems that the focus at hand for Huawei is to produce products that speak for themselves and provide a novel character for their brand in new territories.

Fundamental to this are Huawei’s trade marks which, as the cornerstone assets of their brand, will be what a new generation of consumers will look for when seeking their cutting edge products.

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Brand Breakdown 003 – Huawei was written by Dr. Martin Douglas Hendry

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