For the second time since July, the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade plans to present the State Intellectual Property Office with a new list of 30 pseudo Italian brands in an ongoing war targeting shady marketing strategies used by Chinese businesses.
Giovanni de Sanctis, an intellectual property representative with the institute's Beijing office, said on Tuesday the institute had lodged complaints with the IP office saying that unscrupulous Chinese manufacturers had been discovered distributing goods falsely labelled as being Italian and made in Italy.
De Sanctis also noted that Chinese consumers were among the victims of the practice.
'The consumers find it hard to tell if these are authentic Italian brands and end up paying high prices for something that is not necessarily shoddy but not authentic,' he said.
According to a China Daily story posted on the IP office website, no Italian company has been named as a victim, but Italian IP authorities said the fake products could 'damage the image of the country and of made-in-Italy goods'.
Some manufacturers on the mainland have turned to such shady marketing strategies - projecting their made-in-China products as international brands - to take advantage of a faith in foreign brands among notoriously brand-conscious mainland consumers, amid a credibility crisis facing Chinese brands.
Most of the 30 Chinese businesses that the Italian institute named for trademark irregularities in its complaint last year are in Guangdong province and Beijing.
For example, Guangzhou Changwei Car Accessories has promoted its Cosda-branded products as being handmade in Italy, and the brand's official website, Cosda-cn.com, featured an Italian national flag, the China Youth Daily reported.
Before being exposed by mainland media in late March, the Hangzhou Natu Furniture Co in Zhejiang also promoted its Pochini brand of kitchenware as being an Italian brand.
Following the complaint that Sanctis' office lodged with the State Intellectual Property Office in July over some pseudo Italian brands on the mainland, the trademark department under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce rejected an application from Beijing-based Desfone, a textiles firm, for the registration of two names: Nino Ferletti (Italy) and BestibelliMilan.
Desfone still claims online that it used to be a sales representative for five Italian brands, including Fendi and Nino Ferletti.
The company's promotional fliers also claimed that Nino Ferletti was an Italian menswear company with 150 years in the business, but it is not a registered brand in the country, according to the China Youth Daily report.
The newspaper also quoted an official with the Beijing Bureau of Industry and Commerce as saying that no investigations had been opened into such complaints from the Italian office, and that such cases would be extremely difficult to investigate unless they are presented with solid evidence.
Associate Professor Li Zuming, who teaches intellectual property rights at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the rampant selling of pseudo international brands on the mainland was an issue of unfair competition rather than of foreign trade.
Li conceded that the promotion of products using the name and flag of another country was a clear violation of Chinese laws, but the key to dealing with the problem lay in enforcing those laws.
He also said that, aside from presenting lists of names of violators to authorities, the institute may not have much success in trying to press authorities into greater action.