By Perry Wu
A walk through Beijing's new Silk Market store or the BuyNow Electronics store a few blocks north provide a lurid glimpse into an obvious problem of copyright, trademark, and patent infringement in China.
The new multi-storied Silk Market lies on the same patch of dirt as its predecessor and still provides the same types of fake Nike and Levis goods. I am always amazed that it sits on Jianguomenwai–Beijing's main street–and is in full view of the world. Rarely are there crackdowns. Foreign embassies are within fifty meters of the Silk Market, a police station is down the road, and a special newly-opened underground tunnel leads consumers directly from the subway stop to the Silk Market's basement. This is institutionalized unabashed counterfeiting at its worst.
Inside the Silk Market you can find everything that Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, and the others promise: lots of fake handbags, ties, socks, underwear, hats, coats, belts, luggage, shoes, and scarves. Security guards stand at the escalators and can direct you to the type of goods you desire (if you speak Mandarin). A look inside a pair of supposedly real Nike shoes shows gobs of glue and sloppy stitching. But check another pair and you might find higher-quality workmanship that is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Just do it.
I have been in China for many years, and the fakery on display at places like the Silk Market still make me cringe. I feel embarrassed for China, actually. With all the press releases that government departments churn out, in their own backyard is one of the most famous haunts for buying fake goods in Beijing.
Walk north to BuyNow and things don't get much better. On two occasions over the last year I have witnessed the "blow dryer technique". This is when a store uses a blow dryer to slowly peel off the "Do Not Remove" or "Warranty Void If Removed" stickers on boxes of electronics to get at either the hardware or software. Then the stickers are carefully glued back onto the boxes with or without their original components.
My first introduction to the blow dryer came after I purchased a Canon printer with a faulty ink cartridge. I returned to the store and when the employee was about to hand me a cartridge from an opened package, I insisted that I receive an unopened cartridge. After arguing–she said the cartridge was the same and I said it was different–she unveiled her blow dryer and slowly opened a fresh Canon printer box. Then she popped out the cartridge and gave it to me. I was suspicious because she could have easily earlier placed a bootleg cartridge in the box, but I ended up taking it home and it worked fine. But I feel sorry for the sucker who ended up buying that second Canon printer. Would the new owner receive a bootleg cartridge or the real thing?
Buying a copy of Oracle's expensive database suite or Macromedia's Fireworks is not a problem either. Each retail on the street for about 10CNY. Do they work? Of course they do. There is so much money to be made in bootleg software that it is worth the effort for a young entrepreneur to ensure that his cracked code operates correctly.
China does have good laws about copyright, patent, and trademark infringement. But getting the message to the local authorities is a monumental task in a country that is so big. There is no money to be made by either domestic or foreign software companies until the problem diminishes.
As much as I might be vilified for promoting the closure of the Silk Market–the bastion for foreign travelers and expatriates–it makes no sense to have an open sore like that visible to the world.
About the author:
Perry Wu is a writer and correspondent for ChinaTechNews.com and can be reached here at the site. Perry Wu does not hold any positions, long or short, on any of the Chinese or American company securities mentioned in this article.