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The Chinese steal your ideas, your products, your copyright, your intellectual  property – or so its claimed.  It’s a monotonous litany of western business failure from those who cannot understand that exploitation is not a path to sustainable business  success. The American publishing industry was founded on exploiting books pirated from England and published without regard to English copyright. It was only as America began to produce its own authors that the American publishing industry discovered the benefits of rigorously enforced copyright and became sustainable.

People often ask about the problem of Intellectual Property piracy in China. I was reminded of these questions by two  recent incidents in Beijing. The first was when I was introduced to some new software by a Chinese software developer. He took time to explain the anti-piracy features he had installed to stop his product being illegally copied. He had product to protect. The shift from made in China to designed in China is significant.

In the 60’s anything from Japan was considered a cheap reproduction of superior goods. Twenty years later Japanese quality was recognised worldwide.  In the 21st century consumers look to Japan for leading innovations. China is on the same development path, but moving more rapidly.

Sometimes people wittingly, or unwittingly make it easier for pirates to operate. At one event I attended I had to sign over 100 of my books. In the West I would simply sign in the blank space on the front page. I have watched other Western authors do the same in China. When I am working in China I start my signature over the book title. The reason is to avoid counterfeiting. A signature on a blank page is easily copied and it can be used to endorse products, services and develop other associations based on a clear signature.

When my signature is ‘contaminated’ with other printing it is much more difficult to extract a clear copy. It makes a would-be counterfeiters job more difficult. Outside of China I have had to deal with a number of organisations who have ‘claimed’ ongoing endorsement as a result of my participation in one-time events. Its not a problem limited to China.

We control IP piracy in China by working with our Chinese partners so they have a joint interest in protecting our brand and IP. Steal and it hurts them and well as us. Just like the software developer, they are vigorous in protecting their rights which are also our rights.

I cannot help but reflect that the greatest and most persistent problems we personally face with pirates - with theft of Intellectual Property – is in the West with auction sites. Having these sellers closed down is a length and time consuming process where the onus of proof is on us as copyright owner to show the thief has stolen our material.
The factory girls in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and a multitude of  other cities are not stupid. They look at the shoes and bags they are producing. They look at the end result of their labours in the high end shops in Shanghai and note the prices. They compare the asking price to the levels of wages they are paid. This exploitation gap puts out the welcome mat for counterfeiters.
Exploitation in the age of the internet is even less viable. It was said in the 1960s that the refrigerator became a symbol of revolution because it showed the third world what the first world enjoyed.   In the 21st century the internet provides confirmation of exploitation. So, some people reason, producing a cheaper knock-off, perhaps using the same production process and production line, reflects a true capitalist competitive pressure.
My business in China is built entirely around intellectual property. I cannot protect it successfully in China, but my Chinese partners can protect it. They choose to do so because my business success is part of their business success.  Part of their profitable outcome depends on my protecting my intellectual property. Our objectives are the same.
My friend NanNan works very hard. Often I will wish her a happy weekend. Enjoy weekend Zhou mo yu kuai.  She replies  Yi yang yi yang,    same same.

Ultimately you get out of your China business what your sincerely put into  your China business, and often more than you expect. It  is same same. Exploiters are in turn exploited. Sincere friends are rewarded in ways that go well beyond any monetary return.

 Extracts from China Business Bites by Daryl Guppy - click here