Thursday, 17 January 2008

Just incredible

No one should automatically take the often out-rageous examples of piracy in China that are reported in the media as indicative of the way the average Chinese business conducts itself, but sometimes you come across examples which are simply way too much. Here's a report from a recent edition of Time that simply takes the biscuit, money quote:

"In 2003 Timothy Demarais, vice president of the South Bend, Indiana-based industrial adhesive manufacturer, says he walked into the Canton Trade Fair in Guangzhou, China, and found that his company's product line — and his company's identity itself — had been knocked off by a Chinese firm called Hunan Magic Power, also known as Magpow. When Demarais attempted to have the imposter kicked out, he says, Hunan Magic Power chairman Yuan Hongwei produced documentation that he claimed showed his company had the right to use the trademark ABRO. He had even copied ABRO's labeling, including one sample card with a photo of a woman applying epoxy to a bicycle. The woman, it turned out, was Demarais' wife. After Demarais pulled out another photo of his wife from his wallet, the trade fair officials booted Hunan Magic Power. "How blatant can you be when you steal my wife's picture for your card?" asks Demarais."

Of course, there's been the usual mindless appeal to Chinese patriotism, after jumping bail in London and fleeing back to China, Yuan Hongwei made this statement:

"I most want to say thank you to all levels of the motherland's government and the people for the loving concern, help and support you gave me during my period of misfortune in London,"

On Chinese blogs, ABRO is increasingly being labeled the villain in the saga, and the company's Chinese attorneys have been called traitors. "Thanks to America and Britain, and with the help from the traitors, Chinese people were left in the dark and really thought Magic Power and Yuan Hongwei violated the law," reads one posting.

Another thing which stands out clearly from this case is that the (at least public) support that the foreign rights-holders received from central government counts for nothing if the local government is not on board also:

"The Chinese legal system has been very supportive of our case," Baranay says. "We've been tarred and feathered, but we're not going to abandon China. We sell in China and we manufacture some of our products in China." But despite government support at the national level, Baranay says local authorities in Yuan's home of Hunan haven't gone after him. "Good gracious, he employs people, he pays taxes — that's a powerful incentive to local people to turn a blind eye."

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