China Promises Crackdown on Trademark Infringement

by Matt Klassen on December 27, 2012

For years China has been a haven for trademark infringement, the communist regime finding better things to oppress than those flouting international copyright standards. The result has been a Chinese empire of knockoffs, with nationwide night markets hocking blatant forgeries of some of our most popular branded items to tourists looking for a cheap souvenir.

While China has long turned a blind eye to such trademark missteps—I often wonder what Nike would say about its trademark swoosh hilariously branded on the pair of misspelled ‘Mike’ sandals I once found in a Chinese market—the days of cheap knockoffs may quickly be coming to an end, as the Chinese government has proposed a crackdown on malicious use of trademarks and trademark registrations.

According to Reuters, following a rash of complaints from high profile companies regarding the illegal use of their names and brands, the Chinese government has promised to start taking take the matter seriously, evidence certainly that the communist country finally sees itself as a legitimate and respectful global player. My only concern now would be for the health and safety of those selling genuine ‘Rolexx’ watches on the street corner.

For years foreign governments, most notably the United States, have pressured China to take a stronger stand against copyright violations and misuse of trademarked intellectual property. From movies to video games, from medicine to clothing, nothing has been off limits to the Chinese knockoff machine, but with several notable incidents this past year, including Michael Jordan suing against the unauthorized use of his image and Apple getting sued by a Chinese company who seemingly fraudulently patented the name ‘iPad,’ it looks like times are finally changing.

While big brands have complained before,China now finds itself at a crossroads; one path leading towards respectable and influential world trade partner, the other leading towards being an international byword for shady business practices and shoddy ethics, and its clear that the Chinese government is hoping it can traverse the former.

To that end, the government has proposed an amendment to the country’s foreign ownership laws, one that, “will offer protection to major international brands, giving copyright owners the right to ban others from registering their trademarks or from using similar ones, even if such trademarks are not registered,” Chinese state media reported.

As more and more international companies are setting up shop in China, its clear that the age of seclusion–where citizens of the communist regime didn’t have access to North American products and so had to make knockoffs–is over, as the gates of the Great Wall have been thrown open in recent years, welcoming companies—particularly in the technology sector—to exploit the country’s cheap labour and vast resources.

In the end, I do have to wonder what the Chinese government means, though, when it promises to ‘stamp out’ trademark offenders and ‘crackdown’ on intellectual property infringement, as in years past that sort of language had a distinctly nefarious tone to it. But perhaps those days of heavy-handed governance are coming to an end as well, one more sign that China really does want to be taken seriously.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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