Facing Counterfeiting Crackdown, Beijing Vendors Fight Back

The Silk Street Market in Beijing is famous among locals and tourists alike as a massive mall of fake designer goods.  Now Silk Street vendors of counterfeit bags and clothing are protesting a crackdown on their stalls by the Beijing Silk Street Company, the first tangible effect of an intellectual property rights lawsuit brought four years ago by Burberry, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Prada.   From The New York Times:

“We expected trouble,” said Zhao Tianying, a legal consultant with IntellecPro, a Beijing firm specializing in , who represents five foreign luxury-brand manufacturers that have sued the market for trademark violations. “But we never imagined this.”

The vendors have responded with the same ferocity with which they nail down a sale. Dozens of them have staged weekly protests against IntellecPro lawyers who are pursuing the trademark case, mocking them as bourgeois puppets of foreigners. The vendors confronted witnesses who provided evidence of trademark violations and filed a countersuit asserting that only the government can shutter a business.

A few characters scrawled in pencil on the wall outside IntellecPro’s office sums up the vendors’ message: “We want to eat!”

The skirmish between the crafty but mostly uneducated hawkers and five of the world’s best known producers of designer goods is part of a much bigger fight over China’s vast counterfeit industry. American movie, music and software companies alone estimate that Chinese pirated goods cost them more than $2 billion a year in sales.

Silk Street Market vendors protest outside the office of IntellecPro, the Beijing law firm representing the brand name manufacturers.

Silk Street Market vendors protest outside the office of IntellecPro, the Beijing law firm representing the brand name manufacturers (Photo: Du Bin / The New York Times).

A February clash between vendors and guards closing a luxury goods shop in Silk Street Market (Photo: Agence France-Presse - Getty Images).

A February clash between vendors and guards closing a luxury goods shop in Silk Street Market (Photo: Agence France-Presse - Getty Images).

March 2, 2009, 10:47 AM
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