Nike and LVMH, who have struggled against knockoffs of their famous products, are sticking up for China when it comes to fighting piracy.
US President Donald Trump has cited the theft of American intellectual property, including the counterfeiting of major brands, as justification for imposing tariffs on Chinese imports. But executives at two of the biggest victims of such violations praised Beijing’s efforts to crack down on intellectual property abuses at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Thursday.
China has helped create a “much-improved environment for brands” compared with a decade ago, said Valerie Sonnier, global intellectual property director at Louis Vuitton Malletier. China has done “much more than some other countries,” she said.
Sonnier cited government crackdowns on sophisticated counterfeiting rings in Southern China’s Guangdong province that prevented exports of fake Louis Vuitton bags to Dubai and the US.
Margo Fowler, Nike’s chief intellectual property officer, echoed those sentiments, expressing appreciation for “the growth in China’s IP system in extending trademark status and protection” to Nike, its swish design and “Just Do It” slogan.
Both companies have seen a surge in sales from China as affluent consumers embrace high-end brands. Nike’s annual revenue from China last year was $5.1 billion, more than doubling since 2013.
Of the 50 countries in the US Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index, which measures commitment to protecting innovation through legal rights, China ranks 25th. It earns praise in the survey for its reforms on patents and copyright, but loses marks for the high levels of infringement and insufficient legal safeguards.
At an expo forum, several Chinese officials touted the nation’s progress on cracking down on fakes, while reiterating the country’s determination to go further. Still, some companies at the expo said IP protection remains a concern in China.
“It’s unrealistic to expect any country to root out counterfeiting and IP infringement completely,” said Wang Hejun, chief of the trade remedy and investigation bureau at China’s Ministry of Commerce. “One shouldn’t rashly impose unilateral sanctions and disrupt multilateral rules because of a few problems with IP protection."