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US and China make major bilateral anti-piracy bust

Officers nab fake Apple, Samsung and Blackberry kit

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US and Chinese customs officials have joined together on a bilateral anti-piracy blitz that has seen over 240,000 fake electrical items confiscated.

The combined operation came as a result of recent talks between the two countries in which they agreed to work together to stem the flood of pirated goods flowing from China – where most of them are made – to the US.

US Customs and Border Protection said the month-long “intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement operation”, which was the first of its kind to be held with China, resulted in the seizure of 243,000 counterfeit consumer electronics goods including Apple, Samsung, Blackberry and Sony gear.

“The theft of intellectual property is a global problem and cross-border efforts are needed to fight it. CBP looks forward to a continued partnership with the People’s Republic of China General Administration of Customs (GACC) in confronting this critical trade issue,” said CBP acting commissioner Thomas Winkowski in a canned statement.

“Robust enforcement of intellectual property rights allows innovators and creators – whether in a small start-up or an international corporation – to profit from their efforts, and gives consumers confidence in the products they buy.”

The operations took place in several ports in both countries and involved both nations pooling information and sharing tip-offs, rather than working physically side-by-side, according to Reuters.

“Enforcement agencies around the world should work more closely to crack down these illegal activities. China Customs has been making unremitting efforts to promote international cooperation in this field,” said GACC vice minister Zhou Ziwu.

“The results of this joint operation are very inspiring and have consolidated our confidence and resolve to jointly fight against IPR violations under the framework of Memorandum of Cooperation on Strengthened Cooperation in Border Protection Enforcement of IPR between GACC and CBP.”

Apart from the goods seized, the operation disappointingly yielded just one arrest – a US citizen apparently importing counterfeit Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, which he sold on Craigslist. Not exactly a major pirate scalp for the authorities then.

It’s certainly good news that China is finally co-operating internationally to clamp down on pirated electronics leaving its shores, but Western hardware and software makers are still losing millions every year thanks to a massive counterfeit goods industry inside the People’s Republic.

The Business Software Alliance, for example, still rates China as one of the worst offenders globally with a piracy rate of 77 per cent.

There are signs things here are slowly changing, however. E-commerce giant Alibaba signed an agreement with the authorities to share intelligence on possible counterfeiters selling through its sites, whilst the country’s copyright watchdog in June announced it was expanding its oversight of online merchants. ®

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