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FT-mar16-Vol51-2 11 While counterfeiting is a big problem in China, the country’s IP laws are fairly robust and the government does take the issue seriously, Zespri general counsel Katherine Evans says. “In China the government has an enforcement unit that will go and investigate counterfeiting and some other intellectual property infringements on your behalf,” Evans says. “This is quite different from New Zealand where intellectual property disputes are a civil matter.” Zespri recently teamed up with Export NZ Bay of Plenty and intellectual property specialists James & Wells to create a joint presentation on protecting IP rights when exporting to Asia. The subject is important to Zespri, which is a common target for counterfeiters due to its brand popularity. “Zespri has the dubious distinction of being the most-copied fruit brand in China,” Evans says. “We have people on the ground in wholesale markets constantly monitoring for counterfeit activity. One of the challenges is how quickly fruit goes through the market. By the time there is any enforcement, the fruit has already been eaten.” Evans says counterfeiting is still a large-scale industry and represents a signifi cant threat for Kiwi exporters. New Zealand is known as a clean, safe source of food, and brand damage can be hurtful to ‘New Zealand Inc’ as well. Counterfeiting is not the only IP challenge for Kiwi businesses in China, according to James & Wells Head of Division – Asia, Johnathan Chen. China has a ‘fi rst to fi le’ system for trade mark applications, which he says provides opportunists the chance to ‘own’ well-known foreign brands legally. Kiwi companies often lose their brands during marketing, testing or negotiation stages. Investigations often show that a registered owner of a New Zealand brand in China is the distributor that the New Zealand company was negotiating with and fi led in anticipation of negotiations. “Fortunately we’ve had clients who were able to buy back ownership of trade marks. In many cases, the brand is lost forever, and being actively used by Chinese companies.” Export NZ Bay of Plenty executive Melissa Conrad says counterfeit and IP issues are one of the biggest challenges New Zealand exporters face in China across different products and industries, and exacerbated by long distance and lack of understanding. “Our recent joint event in collaboration with Zespri and James & Wells gave our exporters key insights and ways to help tackle these challenges within their own businesses.” FT023 China not the WILD WEST for IP Horror stories have given Kiwi businesses the wrong idea about China’s improving intellectual property regime, experts say.

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