Multinational companies seek to get better protection for their brands in their meeting with Wu Yi A group of multinational corporations last week met Vice-Premier Wu Yi to push for better protection of their brands, in the highest level meeting the group has had so far on the issue of piracy. Some participants walked away dissatisfied because the vice-premier did not offer any new proposals to counter the rampant piracy that threatens foreign brands in the mainland. 'What she told us is what we already knew,' said one lawyer who attended the meeting which lasted more than two hours. However, others felt she listened closely to their complaints, took notes and was planning to follow up. 'That makes me feel she will go back and see what can be done. She didn't make any promises,' another executive at the meeting noted. At the meeting, Ms Wu said the Chinese government was continuing with plans to draft new legislation governing criminal liability in relation to intellectual property. Members of the Protection Committee said they hoped to see enactment of the legislation at the end of this year or early next, but Ms Wu gave no indication of a timetable. Held on September 8, the meeting was organised by the Ministry of Commerce, which invited members of the Quality Brands Protection Committee, a group representing 81 foreign multinationals within the China Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment. The Chinese government was represented by Ms Wu, who, as vice-minister of industry and commerce, oversees piracy issues, along with about 50 other officials. A handful of corporations gave five-minute presentations, including Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Dell Computer Corp, Ericsson and Nike. The corporations pressed Ms Wu for an increase in prosecutions of companies that were illegally using foreign brands. 'Brand owners want public bureaus to conduct active criminal investigations and also asked for the prosecution threshold to be lowered,' said one person who attended the meeting. The Ministry of Commerce could not be reached for comment. The warmest response from Ms Wu came during presentations from the pharmaceutical industry. During the Sars crisis, she also became Minister of Health, and is most likely receptive to the issues surrounding the production of drugs on the black market. An estimated 192,000 people died last year in China because of fake drugs, according to the Shenzhen Evening News. Apart from problems within China, many of the firms that produce these drugs ship containers of the basic ingredients to other countries, including Mexico. Procter & Gamble had said that piracy of the company's shampoos and other personal-care products had cost it at least US$150 million. Ms Wu also grilled two executives from Ericsson and Microsoft on the reasoning behind their complaints. Last week, United States Assistant Secretary for Commerce William Lash said China had to mete out more prison sentences and fines to stop piracy under the laws of the World Trade Organisation. Fake products made in China, ranging from car parts and playing cards to pharmaceuticals and pirated DVDs, were costing US companies US$20 billion to $25 billion each year, Mr Lash said. 'Obviously there is not much being done to deter piracy.'