Born 30 years ago, Hello Kitty has become well known among young people as a lovable cartoon figure. But when it comes to copyright protection, the pink, chubby kitten is serious.
"We have found that nine Chinese enterprises have infringed on our copyright by using the image of the kitten," said a senior official with Hello Kitty's creators Sanrio Co Ltd at the 100th China Export Commodities Fair.
The fair, initiated in 1957 in Guangzhou, has attracted more than 14,000 businesses with around 150,000 different commodities.
However, in the last two years, an average of 200 intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement cases have been reported at the fair, involving famous brands like Adidas, Panasonic and Louis Vuitton. Last year, 700 Chinese companies were sued for this reason.
"Protecting the property rights of enterprises is not only part of the pledge of the Chinese government before China's entry into the WTO, but also a must for innovation and development of Chinese companies, especially high-tech companies," said Zhang Jiaqing, head of the intellectual property investigation office of the China Foreign Trade Center.
Companies found guilty of copyright infringement at the Guangzhou Fair will have their products confiscated. If they violate IPR regulations twice at the fair, they will be expelled from the session. And they will be banned permanently if a third infringement is discovered.
"These efforts show China's determination to enforce IPR protection and follow international conventions," said Feng Xiaoqing, vice director of the Research Center of IPR of the China University of Political Science and Law.
Feng believes that the Guangzhou Fair, as a window into China, could help promote the awareness of enterprises to protect and respect IPR and foster fair competition between domestic and foreign companies.
The number of IPR infringement cases at the fair is down from more than 400 in 2000 to around 200 this year.
Some foreign businessmen have noticed the decline of copyright infringement cases in China. The official with Sanrio said that last year at the fair, he found 38 Chinese enterprises infringing the copyright of Hello Kitty.
(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2006)