China product piracy to go before WTO

Japan, other nations getting fed up

Kyodo News

Japan, the United States, Canada and the European Union will take concerted action at the World Trade Organization to press China to crack down on illegally copied and pirated products, government officials said Saturday.

Washington is expected to bring the case to the global trade body as early as this week. Tokyo, Ottawa and Brussels will later join the dispute as third parties, the officials said.

These governments have decided to complain to the WTO because businesses in their countries are suffering losses due to illegally copied DVDs, CDs and fake brand products sold in China.

They argue Beijing is violating the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS. The action will spell increased international pressure on China over the piracy issue.

Japan, the U.S. and some European countries have begun preparatory work to create an international convention intended to prevent the spread of illegally copied and pirated products.

Chinese authorities impose no criminal penalties on those who make or sell counterfeit goods if the total value of confiscated products is less than a certain amount.

In the planned action at the WTO, the U.S. and other countries will urge China to broaden its criminal prosecution in dealing with piracy.

Under WTO rules, the countries will first hold consultations with China after filing the suit.

If China fails to comply with the countries’ request within 60 days, the plaintiffs will ask the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body to set up a panel to judge whether China is infringing on the TRIPS accord.

A senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it is unclear whether the WTO will accept the assertions.

“There is no precedent of a WTO suit with the purpose of protecting intellectual property rights,” the official said.