Seminar aims to stamp out counterfeits

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 February, 1993, 12:00am

CHINA is to co-host an international seminar aimed at clamping down on infringement of trademarks and other intellectual property rights, underlining its commitment to stamping out rampant trade in fake brands.

The Science and Technology Commission is joining forces with private investigation firm Pinkerton Asia for the planned conference, which is expected to take place in mid-April in Beijing.

An impressive line-up is pencilled in, including representatives from the Public Security Bureau, the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade and the Supreme Court.

The organisers claim it will be the first seminar of its kind to be held on the mainland.

Pinkerton Asia general manager (Hongkong) Simon Cheetham said: ''The law in China is quite good, compared with other developing countries in Asia.

''But, largely to do with China's sheer size and bureaucracy, when it gets down to enforcing that law it is not being done so efficiently.'' The three-day seminar aims to be a forum for exchange of information between the companies that want to stamp out fake brands and the authorities that have legal powers to do so.

Mr Gareth Davies, who is responsible for intellectual property in China for Pinkerton, said: ''One of the biggest messages we have got from Beijing is that they want to know what foreign trademark owners need, to justify bigger sales into China and investing in more sophisticated industries.

''They don't want to stay at the sports shoe and garment stage forever.

''Part of this meeting will be putting forward the ideal law and law enforcement system.'' According to Pinkerton, one of the biggest problems in the area of trademarks and intellectual property rights is awareness. Many people are not aware that it is illegal to copy protected goods.

It seems that anything can be copied: beside the familiar jeans, sports shoes and handbags on market stalls are jars of Nescafe, Rawlplugs and - worryingly, from a safety point of view - car brake pads.

Through the Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC), makers of counterfeit goods in China can have their goods seized and destroyed, and may be fined.

But the proportion caught is reckoned to be tiny.

''It's very much like crime. You see people arrested and you know the police may be doing a good job, but it's basically just the tip of the iceberg,'' Mr Cheetham said.

Even rooting out the factory maker in China fails to eliminate the business organiser. The business executive, usually from Hongkong or Taiwan, who has placed the order will simply move to another manufacturer.

Mr Cheetham said: ''It is much harder to take action against the organisers here when there is no physical product. Maybe the goods will go via Hongkong, in terms of containers from Guangzhou, but in the offices you will only find a paper trail.

''Paperwork will always be disguised: nothing is going to say 'one consignment of fake belts'.''