LELECHA was accused of copyright infringement when co-branding

On 23 April, World Book Day, LELECHA collaborated with Yilin Press to launch a “Smoky Oolong” (烟腔乌龙) milk tea, to pay tribute to author Lu Xun (1881-1936). The cups feature Lu Xun holding a milk tea, and the campaign’s slogan was “Old Smoker, New Youth.” However, the product sparked controversy after its launch, with the word “Smoky” being regarded as disrespectful to Xun. On 29 April, Lu Xun’s family and the Lu Xun Cultural Foundation demanded that LELECHA and Yilin Press stop infringing on Lu Xun’s portrait rights upon receiving the lawyers’ letter. On the same day, LELECHA issued a statement apologising for the incident.

Widely regarded as the greatest writer and critic of 20th-century Chinese literature, Lu Xun is known for his poignant and distinctive essays on China’s historical traditions and modern conditions. Xun’s works became known to English readers from as early as 1926 with the publication Ah Q. At the same time, he was one of the leaders of the New Culture Movement and influenced many young people to join the revolutionary movement.

Lu Xun was a heavy smoker, which may have contributed to the deterioration of his health throughout his final years. This may also be why LELECHA ended up making the connection between Xun and his infamous characteristic of smoking.

According to Hu Baotan, author of the Shanghai-language novel “Lane Hall” (《弄堂》), the term “Old Smoker” is sometimes pejorative in everyday Shanghai life, and denotes someone addicted to smoking. “New Youth” should learn from and inherit the spirit of Lu Xun, not “Smoky” as LELECHA puts it.

In recent years, tea drinks are keen to engage in co-branding, in order to meet the personalised and differentiated consumer demand, but also to take the opportunity to join forces with some of the big IPs, through the fan economy to trigger a sales boom. This LELECHA disputed event on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform has caused extensive discussion. The hashtag “Lu Xun’s family has sent a lawyer’s letter to LELECHA” (#鲁迅家属已向乐乐茶发律师函#) shot to the top of the headlines, triggering 130 million views and 10 thousand discussions. Netizens generally believe that “endlessly engaging in co-branding is really meaningless, and not as good as the high quality of the products”.


Join our newsletter