US Consul General in Shanghai lauds Anhui court's punishment of counterfeiters
Sean Stein, the U.S. Consul General in Shanghai, recently visited Anhui Province to thank a local court for its punishment of athletic shoe counterfeiters. A court in the Anhui city of Bengbu sentenced each of the four offenders to nearly four years in prison (sentences ranged from 3 years, 8 months to 3 years, 11 months) and fined them RMB 65,000 to 1.3 million.
The counterfeiters established factories in Bengbu, where they produced fake Spalding, Nike, Adidas and NBA athletic shoes. With the exception of Germany's Adidas, the marks infringed were all American. Infringement value totaled RMB 130 million, while sales reached RMB 70 million. The offenders sold the fake shoes from a registered Taobao store and four other online shops.
Amidst Washington's ongoing investigation of Beijing's alleged unfair trade practices, China has launched a media counteroffensive, which depicts steady progress in many areas of IP protection. The most obvious area to highlight is punishment of counterfeiters - especially when their victims are American brands.
Beijing is well aware that local authorities often go easy on counterfeiters. This Bengbu case is an exception - the jail sentences and heavy fines are more typical of the American justice system's punishment of counterfeiters than China's. Indeed, in a March blog post, Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma pointed out that China’s “ambiguous counterfeiting laws” fail to deter IP thieves. “There is a lot of bark around stopping counterfeits, but no bite," he said, adding that jail sentences and heavy fines would go a long way towards curbing counterfeiting.
Consul General Sean Stein's visit to Bengbu shows the importance the U.S. attaches to the case. Before visiting, Stein sent a thank-you note to the court in which he wrote that he was grateful for their efforts "to protect the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies in a fair and just manner." During the visit, Stein delivered a thank-you letter to the court from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The article notes that this case was selected as one of 50 last year best illustrating China's dedication to IP protection. The case was exhibited at the First Chinese Intellectual Property Protection Exhibition and "fully affirmed" by Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme People's Court of China.