WASHINGTON — China agreed to step up its enforcement of intellectual property rights to curb prevalent counterfeiting and pirating of U.S. trademarks with the creation of a government structure to be led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, U.S. trade officials said Monday at the close of high-level U.S.-Sino talks in Chengu, China.

This story first appeared in the November 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed the agreement at the end of the 22nd U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce & Trade meeting.

“For the first time, China will establish a permanent leadership structure to enforce intellectual property rights,” said Bryson. “As enforcement becomes effective, those who infringe will no longer be able to lay low until a crackdown is over and then simply resume their illegal activities.”

Bryson called China’s new commitments a “step in the right direction.” Kirk said the two governments had reached agreement on a “number of important outcomes,” but acknowledged U.S. officials had “hoped to accomplish even more.”

In addition, U.S. officials said China committed to “increased political accountability” and will measure the performance of provincial officials by the level of enforcement activity in their regions.

Rogue Web sites selling infringing counterfeit goods will also receive more scrutiny by Chinese authorities. U.S. officials said they will participate in an industry-government program next spring with their Chinese counterparts to “identify new approaches to combating the sale of infringing hard goods on online markets.”

China’s pledge to crack down on counterfeiting has significant implications for the fashion industry, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to combat the illegal production and sale of bogus goods. China is the top source of counterfeit products and pirated goods seized by U.S. officials. It accounted for 66 percent, or $124.6 million, of the total domestic value of seizures in fiscal year 2010, according to the latest report by U.S. Customs & Border Protection and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement. The number of seizures from China rose 18 percent in the fiscal year to 12,200.

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