Consumer demand fuels counterfeit goods

By Li Qian (
Updated: 2006-12-05 15:06

A new intellectual property protection regulation issued by Jilin Province days earlier prohibits citizens who travel abroad from wearing fake brand clothes, carrying pirated CDs or books, or mailing pirated articles to foreign countries, the Legal Daily reported December 4.

This is the latest move to combat the consumer demand that encourages counterfeiting in a country already flooded with fake goods.

The regulations also stipulate that regional protectionism must be addressed, and officials who cover up for fake product makers will be severely punished.

Just before this year's Labour Day holiday, during which a lot of people travel, travel agencies warned tourists not to wear or carry fake brands, or they would face up to 300,000 Euros in fines at customs.

The warning came from a Chinese tourist who was stopped by French custom officials for carrying a fake Adidas backpack, which was then confiscated, days before the holiday.

Haunted by counterfeiting problems, China has been criticized by European and American intellectual property authorities for pirating at a time when internationally recognized brands are flocking to the country in search of luxury customers.

Customers like the availability of counterfeit brands, as they can buy fake clothes, bags and watches at as low as one percent of the original brand price.

Foreign visitors to China were surprised and happy to buy fake Louis Vuitton or Prada bags that look like the real thing for just hundreds of RMB in markets well known for carrying fake goods in Beijing and other large cities.

As a result, luxury brand shops have suffered great losses and they are struggling to protect their interests. In September 2005, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, Prada and Chanel sued the Beijing Xiushui Market, a place known for selling many counterfeit brand commodities, for illegally using their brand names.

It was the first time that the Xiushui Market was accused of selling of fake goods since it opened in 1985. It lost the lawsuit and was ordered to stop infringing on the property rights of the producers.

The Beijing government has been tightening measures in the battle against forgery. Shops in small-commodity markets were prohibited from selling fake clothes and other goods in March 2005.

Consumers, however, provide incentive for fake producers and retailers. Police see little effect on counterfeit production and sales, which experts say is due to the country's lack of an intact legitimate system and consumption environment for consumers to respect and protect property rights.

The idea of intellectual property rights has been deeply ingrained in the western psyche ever since the British Monopoly Act was enacted in 1624. Both France and Italy are home to some of the world's top fashion brands which have been copied around the world. It has proved to be effective for their governments to cut customers of fake goods in a battle against forgery.

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