Over 80% of the world’s counterfeit goods originate from China, according to figures published by the US Customs and Border Protection team (CBP). The stark news comes despite the recent smashing of a major software piracy ring and increased anti-counterfeiting measures.

The CBP report reveals that US authorities seized counterfeit goods worth a total of $272 million in the fiscal year 2008, a sharp increase of 38.6% on the previous year. China was the worst offender, with its output accounting for 81% of the counterfeit goods available on the global market. On Monday, Chinese ministers held a meeting on the country’s National Intellectual Property Strategy. “The Chinese ministers might feel that their hands are tied,” says Danny Friedmann, author of IP Dragon and an IP rights consultant in China. “On the one hand they want to enforce IP rights, but on the other they do not want to increase unemployment and cause social unrest by putting whole villages out of work that are sustained by manufacturing counterfeit products.”

Last month, however, Microsoft praised China for taking a firm stand against software piracy (for background information about Microsoft’s campaign see "INTA applauds Microsoft anti-counterfeiting action"). The Chinese Ministry of Public Security (PSB) had worked with US agencies in a two-year investigation which concluded in the conviction of 11 people for copyright infringement. The men had been producing counterfeit versions of Microsoft products and selling them online. David Flynn, Microsoft’s associate general counsel for worldwide anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting work, said: “Microsoft greatly appreciates the work of China’s PSB and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in taking strong enforcement action against this global software counterfeiting syndicate."

Zhao Bingzhi, president of the Criminal Law Research Committee of the China Law Society says that this case proves China’s increased anti-counterfeiting commitment. "This case is also a strong demonstration of the improvement in criminal law legislation and enforcement of IP rights in China," he said. Friedman remains unconvinced. “I am highly sceptical,” he told WTR. “They might be looking for a quick fix, such as a massive enforcement campaign. After such a campaign everything is business as usual.”

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