Fighting the flood of cheap, counterfeit Chinese products is a daily battle for the world's leading companies. An increasing number of Czech firms have now become targets. Cheap copies of Czech motorcycles, Czech pencils and even Czech Tatra trucks are being sold not only in China but elsewhere in the world, where consumers have little chance of recognizing them as fakes.
At first it was a trickle - 22 fake tricycles bearing the Blata trademark appeared in neighbouring Slovakia. It soon became clear that they had never been anywhere near the Czech Republic and their quality was so bad inspectors labelled them a health hazard. Although fake "Blata" tricycles, bicycles and mini-mopeds rarely come even close to the Czech border, hundreds of them are probably being sold around the world. The Czech producer says they are bringing down sales, damaging their reputation and may even result in lay-offs. Gradually other Czech firms have made similar complaints: the pencil maker Kohinoor, Bohemia Piano, Tatra, Velosteel and Brisk have all found pirated copies of their products on world markets. The problem is now being addressed at the highest level. Deputy trade minister Martin Tlapa said China has expressed a readiness to cooperate:
"China is aware of the problem and has expressed a willingness to address it. It has set up a special committee to deal with complaints. So Czech firms which have a problem with pirated goods should contact us and the matter will be addressed via official channels, so that we can be sure they reach the people who are responsible for resolving the problem on the Chinese side."
The piracy issue is expected to top the agenda of Czech-Chinese business talks in Beijing in July and the Czech Republic is hoping that by that time the Chinese authorities will have taken action on some of the complaints that have already been made. But with the extent of plagiarism in China, Czech firms remain sceptical about the result.
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