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Faking it

By Geng Wenxin (Global Times)

09:02, April 23, 2012

Ahead of the World Intellectual Property Day, falling this Thursday, the Italian government has been cooperating with China to crack down on a series of companies pretending to be Italian but that are actually Chinese.

Generally these brands are very expensive, on the basis that they are premium "imported" goods.

Giovanni de Sanctis, representative of the Intellectual Property Rights Protection Office under the Italian Trade Commission, has been participating in the mission to expose fake Italian brands in China since July 2010. After one year's work, the office completed the first list of 10 fake Italian brands and reported them to China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) in July last year. They submitted another list of fake brands in October last year and another on February 29.

"Our purpose is to protect Chinese consumers' rights and the good image of Italian products," Sanctis told the Global Times.

Not the real thing

Sanctis often goes to exhibitions and expos, which is part of his work. Sometimes he sees products decorated with Italian flags or that have Italian words in their advertisements.

"I felt very interested when I saw them. But I started to worry when I found out more about them," he said.

One example is the bedding brand ISAIAH. Sanctis came across the brand at an expo in Beijing in 2011. The brand claimed to be Italian. One of their mattresses cost 34,000 yuan ($5,397), more expensive even than a genuine high-end brand mattress in Europe. Sanctis later found out that the "Italian brand" was actually a Chinese company.

Another example is bedding brand Jajemon. Its goods are produced by Shanghai Jiali Bedclothes Co, but the Shanghai company said the Jajemon brand is owned by an Italian company called Luis Bags. However, "The address of Luis Bags in Florence is also fake," Sanctis said.

There are companies masquerading as "Italian brands" from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and even South Korea. They sell a variety of products, ranging from furniture, kitchenware, home decoration products and clothes to eyeglasses and auto maintenance products.

"These products cheat Chinese consumers. They are priced even higher than genuine Italian products. And if the products are not as good in quality as they claim to be, it will also hurt the image of Italian products," Sanctis said.

Following the submission of the first list of 10 fake Italian brands, China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce told Sanctis' office in October 2011 that the applications for brand registration by two of the companies on the list - Nino Ferletti Italy and Bestibelli Milan - had been rejected. What will happen to the other companies is not yet known.

"China has put a lot of work into protecting IPR. But there is still a lot to be done," Sanctis said.

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