Treaty of Nanking

Attack on fakes fails to impress

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2006, 12:00am

'Service centres' set up, but foreign firms want more

The flurry of activity aimed at cracking down on copyright, patent and trademark piracy is not expected to satisfy foreign companies, which are looking for a more sustained effort to improve protection of intellectual property, observers say.

Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said this week the mainland would set up special 'service centres' in 50 cities this year for reporting piracy and educating the public about the problem.

The announcement came just before the annual meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, a high-level gathering between the United States and China to discuss trade issues, and ahead of President Hu Jintao's first official visit to the US as head of state next week.

'They have been making progress, but they are obviously highlighting their push because of these high-level meetings. It's a systemic problem, so there's nothing they can fix quickly,' said one US business executive.

In an annual policy white paper, the American Chamber of Commerce in China and AmCham Shanghai said enforcement was still lagging.

'China has made positive improvements to its intellectual property laws. However, there has been minimal progress in establishing an effective enforcement system,' it said.

A survey last year showed 80 per cent of the chamber's members found China's enforcement of protection of intellectual property rights to be 'ineffective'. Washington is considering whether to bring a case against China through the World Trade Organisation over the issue.

Shan Xiaoguang, a professor at Shanghai's Tongji University who specialises in intellectual property, said details on how the new centres would function were scarce, but the move showed the central government's level of commitment in tackling the issue.

'The main accusation by foreign countries is that China talks more about protecting intellectual property than taking real action. The opening of these service centres shows the government has the resolution to fight piracy,' he said.

Professor Shan added the move was aimed more at enforcement. 'Compared with announcing new policies or regulations, it doesn't look very significant,' he said.

'But it is a concrete measure, which will facilitate communication between the government and companies, domestic and foreign ones.'