The S&F law blog

China battles against counterfeiting, copyright violations

China was recently named one of the world’s worst offenders in counterfeiting and copyright violations. But the country’s progress in protecting intellectual property (IP) rights has also been widely acknowledged.

The Silk Street Market in Beijing is popular with both locals and tourists. It is famous, or infamous, for its wide selection of fake branded goods, ranging from jeans and scarves to wallets and handbags.

Despite years of crackdown, counterfeit goods can still be bought, either openly or beneath the counter. When the market shut down 29 stalls earlier this year for selling counterfeit goods, vendors not only fought back, but also filed a countersuit.

An intellectual property rights expert said authorities could have taken tougher measures.

Edouard Schmitt zur Hohe, intellectual property expert, said: “In Shenzhen for example, there is an identical market Luohu and when Wu Yi (former Chinese politician) went down, she wasn’t happy with it and within 24 hours all counterfeits were gone. So if the Chinese government really wants to make a move, it will.”

It is estimated that piracy has cost American movie, music and software companies over US$2 billion a year in lost revenue.

Mr Schmitt zur Hohe said: “IP infringement is stealing, it is theft. Somebody spent time, money, investment to create an intellectual property, a movie. It is expensive to make a movie. The average wage in China is 2,000 RMB. An 80 RMB movie is not going to break the bank.”

Over the years, China has put in place comprehensive laws to protect intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks and copyrights.

A newly-revised patents law, which will come into effect in October, will strengthen intellectual property protection for foreign investors, and encourage the import of advanced technologies.

This is a clear sign that Beijing realises that protecting intellectual property rights is an important step in promoting innovation and spurring economic growth.

Mr Schmitt zur Hohe said: “In the 19th century, America is a huge infringer of IP, but once they started on their own IP, they became much better – same with Japan and Taiwan. I think in China, once they get their own trademarks going, we will see much more protection of IP involved.”

Experts say longer prison sentences for violators and greater damages for copyright infringers may help in the fight against counterfeit and piracy. But what is also essential is a more rigorous and more consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

Source: Channel News Asia


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