The Italian Trade Commission's intellectual property division has filed 30 complaints with China's State Intellectual Property Office since late 2011 over fake Italian brands.
The products purporting to be made in Italy use names of Italian places or the Italian flag on logos or trademarks, but actually have no connection with the European country famous for its fashion industry, according to the complaints.
Although no Italian company was listed as a direct victim, Italian IP authorities said the fake products "damage the image of the country and made-in-Italy goods".
Among the products in dispute is bedding from the brand Jajemon that claims to "originate in Italy" and uses the word Italy as part of its trademark. Its producer, Shanghai Jiali Bedclothes Co Ltd, claims the trademark is owned by the company Luis Bags in Florence.
But a representative with the Italian Trade Commission's Beijing office, Giovanni de Sanctis, said the brand is entirely Chinese, while an investigation by the Florence Chamber of Commerce found that there is no company named Luis Bags in the city.
A Jajemon mattress is priced at 34,000 yuan ($5,396) on the Chinese market, and the producer said the same product cost 6,000 euros ($7,919) in Europe.
But a genuine high-end mattress made in Italy costs no more than 600 euros, only 10 percent of what the Chinese company claimed, according to China Industrial Economy News.
Zhao Zhanling, a lawyer at Beijing Huicheng Law Firm and chief advisor at chinaweblaw.com, said it is possible to register such a trademark in China even if the information is faked.
"A foreign company is theoretically required to submit a series of licenses when applying for trademarks in China, but due to problems including language, Chinese administrators may not be able to tell if the company's identity is real," he said.
Xue Shengwen, a senior analyst at China Investment Consulting Industry Research Center, said there are several reasons for the rise of copied and faked Italian brands, but the underlying cause is "the lack of top Chinese brands".
"First of all, many Chinese people trust foreign goods, which creates opportunities for speculators," he said. "An 'overseas brand' might lead to bigger profits, an incentive for illegal companies to take the risk.
"Most Chinese people have yet to develop a strong awareness of intellectual property protection. Inefficient work by related administrations and over-tolerance of such illegal activities should also be blamed," the analyst said.
"The image of China and Chinese consumers are also victims of fake brands," Xue added.
He suggested that the Chinese government encourage proprietary R&D to build world-class brands.
(China Daily 03/28/2012 page17)