NYU Lunch Program on China IP on March 5, 2015

On March 5, I will be joining Prof.  Barton Beebe and others at NYU in a luncheon discussion on IP issues in China.   I have attended or spoken at several of these NYU luncheon programs, hosted by Prof. Jerome Cohen (no relation) and they are all always a pleasure.  There is no fee for attending, but please RSVP.  Here is an excerpt from the announcement.

“Our next distinguished lunch speaker, on Thursday, March 5 in Furman Hall (245 Sullivan St) rm 120, will be Barton Beebe, the John M. Desmarais Professor of Intellectual Property Law at NYU School of Law.  Professor Beebe specializes in the doctrinal, empirical, and cultural analysis of intellectual property and has published work on shanzhai, sumptuary law, and intellectual property law in modern China.  In addition Mark Cohen …  will also make comments and participate in the lunchtime discussion. The talk will be from 12:30pm-1:45pm.

Please send an email to michael.chenkin@nyu.edu by Tuesday, March 3 at 12pm if you plan to attend. 

Barton Beebe’s published works include Intellectual Property law and the Sumptuary Code, 123 Harvard Law Review 809 (2010), and An Empirical Study of U.S. Copyright Fair Use Opinions, 1978-2005, 156 Pennsylvania Law Review 549 (2008).”

Prof. Beebe’s article on shanzhai, IP and sumptuary law in China is found here.


Of Counterfeit Pandas and African Lions….

Want a glimpse of a counterfeit panda?  Go to: http://www.sznews.com/humor/2012-06/08/content_6820640.htm.

Fake pandas are easy enough to counterfeit – if you don’t mind painting up a shizu or other dog and hope that it doesn’t bark too much.   The Chinese press labeled these “shanzhai” (counterfeit/mountain stronghold) pandas, back in 2008.  This “innovation” appeared to have first appeared in Jilin Province.

Jacob Johanson recently posted on linkedin, another story – about a counterfeit African mountain lion in a Henan zoo.  (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/IN-CHINA-EVEN-ZOO-ANIMALS-4972308.S.5891817830172626948)   In this case the mountain lion was a dressed up Tibetan mastiff, at least according to Chinese news reports in 2013 (http://pinglun.eastday.com/c10/2013/0818/20675630.html).   Unlike the counterfeit panda, the Chinese media has suggested that the counterfeit mountain lion could have been created to fraudulently draw visitors to the zoo.

There are many other notable China inspired counterfeits.   Domestic cultural treasures like the terra cotta warriors have been charged with fakery (https://chinaipr.com/2014/02/23/truth-or-false-dream-of-the-red-chamber-and-the-terra-cotta-warriors/).   My favorite is the fake jail that manufactured fake cigarettes.(https://chinaipr.com/2014/06/09/jail-house-inventors-and-fake-jail-infringements/).   Living in China you might also notice when other countries engage in this type of fakery.  Consider for example the Wa state in Burma, which some Chinese consider a counterfeit (shanzhai) version of China.  (http://archive.today/cF98A).

The Problem of “Mountain Stronghold” Teas


How many corrupted officials have got their Ph.D. from corrupted Universities in China?”,  asks Sun Yifei, a professor of geography at Calstate Northridge, on the Google S&T and Innovation in China page.  The answer seems to be, as one blogger noted, that: “China is considered a big “mountain stronghold” country, even master’s degrees for officials, and the title of Ph.D. are counterfeit and substandard” 中国号称山寨大国,连官场上的硕士、博士头衔也大都是伪劣假冒。

This particular episode of false credentials may even have an IP angle.  It seems that a certain “DR. MA,… was just removed from the vice-governor position at Yunnan.  Beijing Normal University, one of China’s 211” and “985” Universities, was the one that gave the degree to him. The executive vice president of the University, SHI Peijun, a geographer, was his adviser for his research on PU-ER Tea. The University got more than 10 million contract/grants from Yunnan” (where this tea is grown).

What is “mountain stronghold” (shanzhai) culture, and how is it implicated in counterfeiting, substandard products and fake degrees?  Prof. Hennessey’s article “Deconstructing Shanzhai–China’s Copycat Counterculture: Catch Me If You Can” explains that “in popular slang in contemporary China, ‘to copy’ and ‘to parody’ as self-aware, casual, and public behavior by ordinary citizens is referred to as ‘shanzhai.’ The literal meaning of the word shanzhai is ‘mountain stronghold,’ which in traditional Chinese popular culture refers to the hideout of bandits and other outlaws”.

Puer tea is the subject of trademark and geographical indication protection in China and overseas.  The tea is distinctive in taste and history.  It has a peaty, fermented taste.  It was carried on the backs of horses through Tibet, and is sold in brick form.  As my brother, a tea connoisseur (picture below) notes, this tea is  particularly well-suited to this Year of the Horse.  Predictably the tea has also been the subject of counterfeiting and possibly abusive trademark registrations.  For example, at the USPTO website, a Canadian Chinese tried to claim the name in 2007 as his own trademark, but abandoned the mark.  The Yunnan Puer Tea Association now owns the mark in the United States, based on an application filed in 2011, which was granted in 2012 (see their trademark above). 

Does counterfeiting hurt China? The answer seems obvious in the case of puer tea.  Adequately defining what is the puer geographical region helps Chinese farmers and agricultural regions, as well as benefitting the IP system and consumers.  Officials with knock-off diplomas, knock-off trademarks and knock off products for the same region help no one.  Ultimately, the injury from “mountain stronghold” counterfeiting reaches deep into the Lancang mountain region where this delicious tea originates.


Source: http://kenneth-cohen.blogspot.com/2013_05_01_archive.html