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China’s IP man isn’t monkeying around

Guohua explains why piracy is so bad

Meet Yang Guohua — living proof that the Chinese government takes intellectual property rights “very seriously,” as he says.

Guohua arrived at China’s embassy in D.C. in January 2006 after U.S. officials asked his government to send a fulltime IP “ombudsman” for North America.

“We had to learn the word,” Guohua notes. “It doesn’t exist in Chinese.”

But once they figured it out, Beijing didn’t hesitate, he says. “They are paying attention to the problem. That’s why they sent me.”

Guohua regularly gets an earful from American companies — especially showbiz types — about China’s reputation as IP Enemy No. 1 in the world. He says he spends an equal amount of time working with those companies to resolve problems, mainly by advising execs on whom to contact inside China for help and how to proceed.

When he’s not speaking to groups and conferences interested in the IP protection situation in China — in a word, bad — Guohua is explaining the reasons he believes the situation is bad.

For instance, MPAA topper Dan Glickman recently told Congress China “lacks the will” to protect IP.

“I disagree,” Guohua says, listing several factors:

? Limited resources for pursuing pirates. The U.S. could probably stop most illegal immigration, he says, “by putting every police officer on the border with Mexico. But there would be no police for anything else.”

? China is still a developing country. “Look at Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. You’ll see at a certain period of their development there were high rates of counterfeiting, too.”

? Economic incentive to bootleg because of low living standard. “Most Chinese are poor and counterfeiters are like drug traffickers” who make pure profit in a vast market.

Guohua does acknowledge that the government could stiffen punishments for counterfeiters. “We have a saying in China — ‘Kill the chicken in front of the monkey’ — to make an impression on the monkey.”

Currently, fines are relatively light. “We need to kill the chicken in front of the monkey,” Guohua repeats.

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