In news that isn’t really news, police in Beijing, China raided and shut down a factory that produced more than 41,000 fake iPhones worth approximately $19 million. Some of those fake iPhones even reached the United States, and the Chinese authorities have arrested nine suspects in the counterfeiting operation. So why isn’t this news? Quite frankly, because the raid happened in May, but Beijing’s public security bureau just revealed it on Sunday, July 26, according to a report from Reuters.
You read that correctly. A factory producing counterfeit iPhones was raided on May 14, 2015, and the Chinese authorities didn’t make it public until the end of July. The police arrested nine people, including a married couple who led the operation, and kept it quiet for more than two months.
Officially, Chinese officials have been taking stiffer action to enforce intellectual property (IP) rights, have encouraged firms to apply for trademarks and patents, and have “cracked down on fakes,” Reuters says. If that’s really the case, why would it take two months to release the details of the raid? Beijing police also noted that their investigation came after being tipped off by United States authorities who had seized some of the counterfeit iPhones.
Something else in the Reuters report really resonates, here. The article discusses a previous plot to exploit the popularity of Apple’s products, a case from 2011 when bloggers in Kunming, China discovered more than a dozen fake Apple stores and posted viral pictures of the stores. Those pictures “embarrassed officials, who vowed to do more to protect trademarks.”
In other words, it isn’t about actually protecting intellectual property. Instead, it’s about saving face. The Chinese government knows counterfeit products are leaving the country and making it into the U.S. and other countries, and only cares so far as portraying some semblance of trying to stop it. Since U.S. authorities tipped off the Beijing police about the fake products, they had to do something. They just didn’t have to do it quickly, so they took their time and reported it months later just to “throw the dog a bone.”
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