WASHINGTON — The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office released its “Notorious Markets Review” Tuesday, citing some progress since February in certain countries’ efforts to curb the sale and distribution of counterfeit and pirated products on the Internet and in physical markets around the world.
“Piracy and counterfeiting continue to present a serious challenge to the innovation and creativity that is essential to supporting American jobs and creating economic growth around the world,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “The notorious markets highlighted in this review negatively impact legitimate businesses and industries of all sizes that rely on intellectual property to protect their goods and services. We hope that this review will continue to yield the kind of concrete action from highlighted markets that led to the removal of several markets from the list this year.”
The report cited progress in Hong Kong’s “Ladies Market,” a popular tourist shopping area known for selling infringing goods, where Hong Kong customs officials took action to remove allegedly unauthorized goods.
Despite some progress by countries in cracking down on counterfeit products, the problem continues to grow for the fashion industry, which has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to protect its brands and trademarks.
USTR said several stakeholders pointed to Taobao.com, a China-based online marketplace, reporting that pirated and counterfeit goods continue to be “widely available” despite “significant efforts” to address the problem.
Taobao was recently listed as one of the top 16 most visited sites in the world and one of the top three most visited sites in China, according to rankings published by Alexa.com, the report said.
“No matter how hard our members try to cooperate with them, Taobao.com keeps finding more excuses to do nothing about an online marketplace filled with listings for counterfeit goods, listings displaying copyrighted photographs without consent and listings using our members’ logos without consent,” said Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear in the association’s submission to USTR for the report. “Right now, they are not taking down any of the sites we notify them about (reportedly because our U.S. service provider does not understand Chinese culture and law), but even when working with Chinese service providers, following Taobao’s takedown ‘process’ requires a level of detail that makes it impossible to efficiently prove sites are selling counterfeit goods. At best, our members spend a lot of money to take down counterfeit listings at about a 10th of the rate that new counterfeit sites are created.”
Burke pointed to 2010 statistics provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which showed that 52 percent of all counterfeit apparel, footwear and accessories seized by officials originated from China.
“As I have previously noted, China is not only largely responsible for the proliferation of counterfeit apparel, footwear and fashion accessories in the United States and other major markets around the world, but also in the U.S. apparel and footwear industry’s fastest-growing market — China,” Burke said.
The USTR review identified more than 30 markets, both on the Internet and physical markets that it said are “prominent examples of where infringing goods and services are sold” around the world.
While inclusion in the report does not reflect a violation of the law or the U.S. government’s analysis of the country’s general intellectual property rights enforcement measures, U.S. officials said they use it to urge authorities to “intensify efforts to combat piracy and counterfeiting…and to use the information contained…to pursue legal actions where appropriate.”