BEIJING: China is taking steps to strengthen intellectual property protection, as a revised trademark law comes into effect and officials crack down on pirated video.

The new law took effect from the start of May and sees Chinese and foreign enterprises treated equally. The maximum fine payable for infringements increases by six times, while the processing of trademark applications is speeded up and sounds can now be registered.
When the legislation was first passed, Xu Ruibiao, director of the Trademark Bureau said it would become easier for foreign trademark holders to protect their rights.

"We have provided protection for nearly all the well-known foreign brands in China," he said. "Foreign enterprises should be confident in the fairness of trademark protection in the Chinese market."

Actions appear to be backing those words as Xinhua reported a crackdown on piracy in the online video industry.

Police in Shenzhen have raided the headquarters of QVOD Technology, a supplier of internet entertainment products, following allegations the company was distributing pornographic content.

Just weeks earlier the company was forced to shut its servers after the National Copyright Administration said it, along with the video service offered by search engine Baidu, was violating copyrights.

Wang Xin, chief executive officer of QVOD Technology, admitted that pirated content had helped the business expand quickly. "But times have changed and rules have changed," he said. "If we wish to survive, we must abide by the rules."

Some observers were less optimistic. Writing in Forbes, Michael Zakkour, principal China/Asia Pacific Practice at the consulting firm Tompkins International, agreed there had been a move towards greater respect for intellectual property (IP) but argued this had been minimal.

The reality is he said, that "IP theft, 'borrowed ideas' and fake products are still as big a problem as ever in China, and copycat culture still presents a major threat to China's continued development".

He cited the experience of lawyer Dan Harris who had seen little change in the past decade in terms of a client's IP being copied in China. "If anything, that copying has only increased as interaction between foreign and Chinese companies increases," Harris said.

Data sourced from Xinhua, Forbes; additional content by Warc staff