China Business Blog just ran another in its “Don’t Quote Me” series of posts and, once again, it’s a good one. This quote is from Ekkehard Rathgeber, President of Bertelsmann Direct Group Asia, regarding the views of rural Chinese government officials on enforcing intellectual property rights:
‘My people are poor; people in western China are making RMB200 (US$24) per month. Now a bunch of foreigners want me to protect their Gucci handbags? I couldn’t care less.’
Even the most optimistic among us on China’s legal system has to concede that the likelihood of securing assistance from local government officials in China’s poorest provinces in protecting Western consumer goods is just not very good. At the same time, this quote starkly confirms my previously stated position on when to expect top level IP protection in China:
Like everywhere else, those in China who can afford the real thing, prefer to buy the real thing. As Chinese wealth increases, and as more and more Chinese companies seek to protect their own brands, counterfeiting will decrease. This is what happened in both Japan and Korea, both of which were at one time, notorious for counterfeiting.
The IP situation in China’s wealthiest cities is already quite different from its poorest. The July issue of the China Intellectual Property Report: Copyright Edition [link no longer exists] discusses nine copyright cases in Beijing and the plaintiff prevailed in every single one of them.
Bottom Line: China is a huge country and what is true in Hebei may not be true in Beijing. You should take this into account when deciding where to locate your China business and you should take this into account when deciding where to pursue your China litigation.