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ASEAN ANALYSIS  4 August 2010

Intellectual property rights in Asia

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   4 August 2010

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Today’s news bring s a report from San Francisco where there has been a crackdown on designer fake goods. Eight shops were raided and a total of US$100 million in counterfeit handbags, watches and other goods were seized by Customs Enforcement agents. The indictment was filed July 22 but revealed only this week.

The AFP reports , “Among the items seized were "clothing, handbags, wallets, jewelry, watches, scarves, sunglasses and shoes that were illegally imported from China."

This type of raid could have been conducted in any Asian city, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Jakarta, you name it.

The supply of these items never seems to stop and there are crackdowns in these Asian cities with the US putting pressure on foreign governments through its index and ranking of countries on their ability to enforce intellectual property rights, ranging from pirated software, movies and of course, the designer handbags that one sees women carrying throughout Asia.

This writer has lived in the Asia-Pacific region for nearly 20 years and can attest that after every crackdown and photo of a tractor rolling over piles of fake watches or piles of illicit software-the problem continues to return.

The problem would appear to be the main source-China and of course consumers worldwide who continue to buy these products knowing that they are not the “real thing.” After all, who can resist a bargain.

Human nature, being what it is, and vanity are powerful forces that are difficult to legal forces and the companies that produce the legitimate goods to surmount.

Most countries do make an effort but after the various sweeps, the venues for the sale of the counterfeit goods change for a few weeks. A few weeks more and the faked goods return to their old street stands that are well-known to their customers.

Intellectual theft is certainly an issue but the desire to appear wealthier by carrying a distinctive handbag appears to be an irresistible force for these goods to continue to be made and for merchants to continue to sell them even in the western world.

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