Fake 'Italian' Brands Appeal to Snobbery


Michael Jordan recently announced he is suing a Chinese maker of sportswear and shoes, Qiaodan Sports, for allegedly using his name without authorization.

Since Jordan's Chinese name is the same as Qiaodan, a survey found that 8 percent of the Chinese surveyed believed Qiaodan Sports belongs to Jordan.

The company is so successful that it is preparing for its IPO.

And betting on Lin-sanity, a man in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, is already in the process of registering the Chinese for US basketball player Jeremy Lin as a trademark.

Another related development is that the Italian Trade Commission has recently set up an office in Beijing to deal with the increasing number of counterfeit Italian brands in China.

Following a one-year investigation, the commission has reported 30 so-called Italian brands with no connection to Italy.

The commission has already submitted a list of these brands to relevant Chinese authorities.

Some of them claim to be Italian. Some used Italian names as brand names to mislead consumers.

In either case, they exist only in China. These brands are generally marketed at such an exorbitantly high prices in China that they would startle most Italians.

For instance, a mattress with an Italian brand name is selling for 40,000 yuan (US$6,332) or more, though it has no connection with Italy, but is more likely to be made at a small, family workshop.

The commission believes such practices not only encroach upon the interests of Chinese consumers, but also injures Italy's image.

Li Yifeng, a branding expert, said falsely using foreign brands is so popular in China that it is alarming.

Since Lacoste is a known brand in France, China now boasts about a hundred varieties of similar brands. "Although such practice may not be illegal, it cannot said to be honest," Li said.

Wu Dong, a lawyer in Shanghai, said that although it is hard to predict the verdict in Michael Jordan's lawsuit, one thing is clear: "However successful Qiaodan Sports can be in China, it would be hard for it to go far overseas, for the brand cannot possibly win recognition abroad."

It is highly ironic that while the whole world is enjoying "Made in China" products, so many Chinese enterprises are making a fortune by palming off their products as foreign brands.

This phenomenon is rooted in a snobbish belief in the superiority of anything from abroad, but lax supervision is also to blame.

Although the Qiaodan case will show that such fraudulent practices will not pay off in the long run, the relevant regulatory authorities have a duty to ensure that such brands never exist in the first place.


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