But Will Anyone Care?

0 Comment

IP Dragon reports on an IP rights protection program in Shanghai:

Next month you can find in Shanghai 100 shops that have a ? (zhen1) sign in their window, which means that they only sell genuine products.

The Shanghai Intellectual Property Administration will control and coordinate the distribution of the signboards. The authenticity of all goods will be checked. Shops must make sure suppliers provide intellectual property certificates and clarify legal responsibility if intellectual property violations occur.

This is an interesting mix between public education campaign and direct government involvement, and I applaud the innovation here.

On the other hand, I have a longstanding antipathy towards public education campaigns (I think they are a waste of resources). The idea of the Shanghai campaign is predicated on the notion that if the public knows which products are fake and which are real, they will choose the genuine article.

A rather large assumption. For some products, I believe this may be true, but I think the number of those products may be more limited than the government might realize. Here’s one obvious example: if you buy a DVD for 6 RMB, you know it’s a fake. Price is way too cheap. Consumers, therefore, already have the information they need to make a choice, and they often choose the fake. There are a lot of other products out there, particularly with respect to luxury brands, where price is always an obvious tip-off to the consumer. Yet people keep buying the fakes. Why? As I’ve said many times before: because they can.

There may be some merit to the program after all, however, despite my criticisms. If this licensing/signboard system means that the police will somehow keep a closer eye on shops that have not opted in to the system, this could lead to more scrutiny on IP infringers at the retail level. Will this happen? No idea, but anything is possible.

Note that this licensing system will require lots of admin work from the Shanghai IP authorities. Do they have the resources to handle all this inspection work? Will they be rigorous in their investigations?

In other words, will this new program be the genuine article or just more PR?

One response on “But Will Anyone Care?

  1. Richard Gould

    While I suspect this program is tilting at windmills, it will be worth watching.

    You are right about DVDs, handbags, sneakers, etc. 9.9 times out of 10, the buyer knows they’re fake products.

    At the same time, walk into most locally-owned general stores and you can find fake band-aids, toothpaste, razorblades, batteries, detergent, liquor, etc. This is especially true as you move out of Shanghai and into the second and third tier cities. Consumers generally don’t want to buy fake shampoo and do so unknowingly.

    The real problem is that sellers often don’t know their products are fake. Supply chains for local retailers are so flooded with fakes that your average shop owner would not be able to confidently say that his store has no counterfeits.