Chinese city orders closures of fake Apple shops
Chinese officials in Kunming ordered two fake Apple shops to close, a local newspaper reported on Monday, an apparent reaction to a storm of media attention about an unauthorised and elaborate hoax store in the southwestern city.
A total of five self-branded "Apple Stores" were found to be operating without authorisation from Apple Inc according to the Metropolitan Times report, posted on the Kunming government website.
Two stores were told to shut down because they did not have an official business licence, the paper reported, not due to concerns about copyright, piracy or other concerns.
Inspections of around 300 shops in Kunming were carried out after a blog post by an American living in the city exposed a near flawless fake Apple Store where even the staff were convinced they were working for the iPhone and iPad maker.
That store, one of three found by the "BirdAbroad" blogger in the city, was not one of the stores closed.
In addition to protecting trademarks, Chinese law prohibits companies from copying the "look and feel" of other companies' stores, but enforcement is often spotty.
But the United States and other Western countries have often complained China is woefully behind in its effort to stamp out intellectual property theft.
In May, China was listed for the seventh year by the US Trade Representative's office as a country with one of the worst records for preventing copyright theft.
Piracy and counterfeiting of US software and a wide range of other intellectual property in China cost US businesses alone an estimated USD 48 billion and 2.1 million jobs in 2009, the US International Trade Commission has said.
Countless unauthorized resellers of Apple and other brands' electronic products throughout China sell the real thing but buy their goods overseas and smuggle them into the country to skip taxes.
All the five unauthorised Apple shops in Kunming were selling genuine Apple products, the newspaper said.
Apple has just four genuine Apple Stores in China, in Beijing and Shanghai, and none in Kunming in Yunnan province. The company, which has 13 authorised resellers in Kunming, could not be reached for comment.
Apple's brand is the world's most valuable, worth some USD 153 billion, according to a study earlier this year.