Counterfeiters ‘feel no pressure’ despite China's crackdown on Disney copyright infringement

By Yuen Yeuk-laam Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-12 20:08:01

Counterfeiters ‘feel no pressure’ despite nationwide crackdown

Statues of Mickey Mouse are seen in a shopping mall in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, on November 2. Unlicensed use of Disney intellectual property is common throughout China. Photo: IC

Piracy of the iconic characters and films from the Disney empire remains a difficult problem in China despite a recent announcement from the authorities that vowed to crack down on piracy of Disney products at all levels in a one-year campaign starting in October.

The Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) published a notice on November 5, stating that the unit has started an operation that aims to protect the trademarks of the Walt Disney Co in China, and crack down on related piracy to pave the way for the opening of a new Disney theme park and resort in Shanghai in 2016.

The operation will also help protect consumers' interests, promote fair competition and enhance the international image of China in terms of intellectual property rights protection, according to the notice.

A rare campaign

It is rare for the Chinese authorities to launch a special campaign targeting the counterfeiting of a particular brand.

The trademark office of SAIC said they will establish a key protected area around Shanghai Disneyland and resorts, setting up key supervision areas and strengthening patrols. 

Also, a communication mechanism will be established in big and medium cities to connect the local authorities with market supervision departments about piracy cases, in order to strengthen law enforcement and crack down on illegal use of Disney trademarks. A supervision mechanism will also be set up to oversee Disney piracy in cyberspace.

Governments of all levels will also crack down on Disney piracy through inspecting related production, retail spaces and advertisements.

Special training will also be given to SAIC supervisory staff to strengthen their knowledge about Disney trademarks and piracy.

As of 2014, over 3,000 companies worldwide have applied for Walt Disney licenses. In China, about 170 companies applied, the Fujian Province-based news portal reported.

The Global Times tried to contact Walt Disney China but it had not responded as of press time.

Piracy in China has been a problem for years. After China lifted a ban on Walt Disney characters in 1978 and joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the country has become one of the largest markets for sales and distribution of film, DVDs, and Disney products.

However, within a short period of time, some factories in China were also making and distributing products that resembled or copied Disney's without paying licensing fees.

Television and box office revenue in the Chinese film industry was worth roughly 29.6 billion yuan ($4.65 billion) in 2014, up 36 percent from the previous year. The losses in pirated films and related products are unestimatable, industry insiders said.

Out of control

Paul Candland, the chairman of Walt Disney in the Asia region, said in May that he felt helpless about the current situation of the piracy of Disney products, and that it is not something the company can control, the Shanghai Business Newspaper reported. 

Although the government operation has already begun, products that claimed to be Disney's can still be found easily online, such as toys, schoolbags and accessories. Some products look so real that they also come with a trademark. Several wholesale companies which sold imitation Disney goods told the Global Times that they do not feel any pressure from the government so far and do not think the crackdown will be effective.

"The government rarely inspects our factories. Also, there are too many companies out there which obtained Disney licenses. I doubt the government really knows which has a license and which hasn't," a staff member surnamed Lai who works for a factory based in Shenzhen told a Global Times reporter posing as a buyer.

His company mainly produces Disney's imitation products that are sold within the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

He explained that he chose not to obtain a Disney license because the license costs 1,000,000 yuan ($157,000) a year, which is too expensive, making it very difficult to earn a profit.

Another wholesaler surnamed Li, whose company is based in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times that customers could choose whether they would like the products to come with a bogus Disney trademark or not.

Many Net users expressed doubt over whether the SAIC operation could really tackle piracy, because law enforcement and the public security departments have failed to stop it in previous years.

Also, some worried that even if the operation is able to temporarily crack down on piracy, the effect may only last for a short period of time, because piracy is deep-rooted in society.

Newspaper headline: China targets Disney piracy

Posted in: Society

blog comments powered by Disqus