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The Rupp Report: China On The Way To Equal (IPR) Rights

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

"To be copied is the highest form of flattery." Everybody in the textile and textile machinery industry knows these words. Having been a sales manager in the past in a silk weaving company, I am reminded that the issue of copying was always at the forefront of any work.

I still have memories of exhibitions like Interstoff in Frankfurt, which was the most important event at that time, when people came into the booth, armed with scissors to steal some new designs. In those days, physical samples were needed, but not for long. Soon, electronic design software appeared in the industry, and many designs went eastward.

Go East
It's also common sense that with the new World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty and the abolishing of quotas, China became a textile powerhouse -- first with fabrics, and now with machinery. The situation became serious with the switch of ITMA Asia from Singapore to Shanghai. The first show looked more like kind of a local Chinese machinery show than an ITMA with its international flavor. Between every Western exhibitor there were always some Chinese manufacturers, whose machines looked somewhat like clones of Western machines. And moreover, local people with cameras and video equipment behaved as if they were at home. Nobody stopped them from taking pictures and filming foreign equipment.

As mentioned above, trade fairs provide venues for presenting innovations and trends. For an organizer of trade fairs and exhibitions, such as Messe Frankfurt, it is very important to be able to ensure effective legal recourse against any brand and product piracy.

In its brochure titled "Protection against brand and product piracy," Messe Frankfurt states that it "takes the protection of intellectual property rights very seriously. It is the first exhibition company worldwide to have launched an initiative against brand and product piracy: 'Messe Frankfurt against Copying.' Moreover, it has incorporated a product piracy clause into its General Terms & Conditions, banned the taking of photographs and offers assistance in the uncompromising enforcement of intellectual property rights [IPR], thereby creating a fair business environment in which imitators do not stand a chance."

However, as Messe Frankfurt notes, "It is only the exhibitors themselves or their lawyers who can take effective action against brand and product piracy based on industrial property law." Its brochure outlines the necessary steps for an exhibitor to fight against brand and product piracy.

The Fight Starts
In spite of all odds, another ITMA Asia CITME took place in 2010, and, frankly speaking, the show was much better organized than the previous one. And, to the surprise of many Western exhibitors and visitors, some Asian booths were shot down after a short time owing to IPR infringement.

As the Rupp Report has been informed, one company that successfully fought for its IPR rights at ITMA Asia CITME 2010 was Italy-based Mesdan S.p.A. Established in 1952, Mesdan is a producer of state-of-the-art yarn knotters and yarn splicers in both automatic and hand-operated versions. The company reports its splicers are integrated into automatic winders from companies such as Italy-based Savio S.p.A. and China-based Jingwei Group. Its many patents, logo marks and trademarks are registered in numerous countries around the world, including China and India. According to Mesdan, its yarn knotters and splicers and their spare parts have been attractive counterfeit targets for the past two decades.

In 2009, Mesdan debuted its Spare Parts Authenticity Program to help it fight IPR infringements. The program comprises barcoding to enable quick product traceability and identification, and marking of crucial splicer parts with the Mesdan logo.

ITMA Asia - CITME 2010 organizers set up an IPR office, which handled 21 claims related to IPR violations, of which eight were submitted by Mesdan for splicers and related spare parts. According to Mesdan, the office examined the claims carefully, found them to be legitimate and ordered eight exhibitors to remove the offending exhibits.

Positive Results
Mesdan reported: "This action couldn't have been really achieved without an objective assessment and the efficient assistance of the IPR office. Their professional behavior represents a good example of China's efforts to implement international standards and 'no-tolerance' rule in the field of industrial intellectual property rights, copyrights and patents. We believe this experience might bring optimism to machinery manufacturers and confirms that China IPR rules do change at pace with its fast industry development."

These changes are also confirmed by Germany-based nonwovens machinery manufacturer DiloGroup. In an exclusive interview that will be published in the next issue of Textile World , Owner and Chairman Johann-Philipp Dilo answered the question, "Can you protect your products in Asia?" as follows:

"There is a main emphasis within the DiloGroup in the field of research and development works, which frequently lead in inventions and are accompanied by patent applications in all important markets. We have therefore shifted to holding Chinese patent applications too, because we think that by now a well-operating patent culture is established that is working according to the European system."

If you want to share your experience with IPR in Asia, please write to jrupp@textileworld.com.

October 5, 2010