Nike and LVMH Are Sticking Up for China in the Piracy Fight

(Bloomberg) -- Nike Inc. and LVMH, which have long struggled against knockoffs of their famous products, praised China’s efforts to fight intellectual property theft.

U.S. President Donald Trump has cited IP violations, including the counterfeiting of major brands, as justification for imposing tariffs on Chinese exports. But executives at the two companies were more charitable at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Thursday.

The country has helped create a “much improved environment for brands” compared with a decade ago, said Valerie Sonnier, global intellectual property director at Louis Vuitton Malletier. China has done “much more than some other countries,” she said.

Sonnier cited government crackdowns on sophisticated counterfeiting rings in Southern China’s Guangdong province that prevented exports of fake Louis Vuitton bags to Dubai and the U.S.

Margo Fowler, Nike’s chief intellectual property officer, echoed those sentiments, expressing appreciation for “the growth in China’s IP system in extending trademark status and protection” to Nike, its Swoosh logo and “Just Do It” slogan.

Both companies have seen a surge in sales from China as affluent consumers embrace high-end brands. Nike’s annual revenue from China last year was $5.1 billion, more than doubling since 2013.

Of 50 countries in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index, which measures commitment to protecting innovation through legal rights, China ranks 25th. It earns praise in the survey for its reforms on patents and copyright, but loses marks for the high levels of infringement and insufficient legal safeguards.

At the expo forum, several Chinese officials touted the nation’s progress on cracking down on fakes, while reiterating the country’s determination to go further. Still, some companies there said IP protection remains a concern in China.

“It’s unrealistic to expect any country to root out counterfeiting and IP infringement completely,” said Wang Hejun, chief of the trade remedy and investigation bureau at China’s Ministry of Commerce. “One shouldn’t rashly impose unilateral sanctions and disrupt multilateral rules because of a few problems with IP protection."

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Rachel Chang in Shanghai at wchang98@bloomberg.net;Miao Han in Beijing at mhan22@bloomberg.net

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Editorial Board