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People's Daily Online>>Life & Culture

Plagiarism disputes arise from lack of creativity

By Jia Yuankun and Du Fang (People's Daily)

08:07, April 20, 2012

Photo shows iPhone news app of NetEase (left) and Tencent (right) (Photo from People's Daily Online)

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

NetEase issued a statement on April 12 accusing Tencent of plagiarizing the design of its iPhone news app, sparking a war of words between the two Chinese Internet companies.

The event reminds people of a fierce dispute between Tencent and Qihoo 360 over a year ago. Intellectual property disputes in the information technology industry test Internet companies' creativity on which they depend for survival.

Protecting users' interests while grabbing market share

NetEase said in the statement issued on the afternoon of April 12 that Tencent stole NetEase's design ideas in the overall layout, comments page, and photo viewing of its iPhone news app. The web portal said that it would take necessary legal measures to protect its rights if Tencent refuses to withdraw the app from Apple's App Store.

In response to the accusation, Tencent said that as one of the first Internet companies to introduce a mobile news app, it "made lots of innovations" in the functions, user interface, and content framework of the April 11 version of its news app.

The news apps of NetEase and Tencent rank first and third, respectively, among all free news apps in Apple's Chinese App Store.

Such plagiarism disputes have become commonplace in the domestic Internet industry. Major listed Internet companies in the country such as Baidu, Tencent, Sina, NetEase, Shanda, and Sohu have all faced similar disputes, either as the accuser or as the accused. The plagiarism involves Web page design, games, software, and text contents.

In February, a principal of Sohu apologized in his micro-blog as the company's talk show copied the opening sequence of a famous U.S. talk show.

In January 2011, Shanda's a leading interactive entertainment platform for browser-based games in China, accused Tencent's games channel of sharing its games without authorization and blocking all ads and links. Tencent said that its editors made some mistakes when reviewing uploaded games, and immediately withdrew all games involved from its website.

Behind the increasing intellectual property disputes and lawsuits in the domestic Internet industry is the pursuit of commercial interests and market shares. If a company's intellectual property rights are indeed infringed, it should first make clear what intellectual property rights are infringed, and then settle the dispute on the basis of facts and within the legal framework, without damaging Internet users' interests, said Tao Xinliang, a member of the State Intellectual Property Experts Advisory Committee and dean of Shanghai University's School of Intellectual Property.

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