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French confectioners fear Chinese copycat after names trademarked on mainland

They are one of southern France’s favourite treats. But the traditional almond calisson sweets from Aix-en-Provence may be about to get an unwanted Chinese makeover.

Connoisseurs of French sweets are concerned that a businessman in the eastern province of Zhejiang has registered the trademarks “Calissons d’Aix” and “Kalisong”, a distinctly Chinese rendering of the famous marzipan-like confectionery.

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With such sweet French patisserie treats as macarons becoming fashionable in China, the makers of real French calissons fear they could be about to lose a potentially lucrative slice of the Chinese market.

“No calissons have yet been produced in China to our knowledge,” says Laure Pierrisnard, boss of the biggest French maker, Roy René.

But the trade body she heads has already launched a legal challenge to the brand in China, where the businessman Ye Chunlin now holds the rights to the name until 2026.

Ye says he registered the brands in good faith. “Every country has it laws … Personally, I do business within the rules.”

But he refuses to say whether he is about to start making either Chinese calissons or “kalisongs”.

“We did not register this brand to do anything wrong, we have no intention to do that,” he adds.

However, a Chinese tannery registered “IPHONE” in 2007 for its leather goods. The US electronics giant Apple recently lost a copyright case against the Chinese firm.

“In China the first person to register a brand generally gets protection,” the chamber of commerce of the European Union in Beijing says.

However, the owner of the brand has to use it within three years or risk losing it.