By Paul Toscano, CNBC.com
From Apple Stores to Theme Parks
China has become known as the epicenter for producing a wide variety of counterfeit and bootlegged consumer products, but a trend has emerged over the past few years of faking full retail operations.
A relatively new phenomenon, these rogue counterfeit businesses are a problem for companies that are trying to establish a brand image in China's emerging economy. While some of these operations sell actual products from the legitimate companies, many simply copy the retail format, right down to even the colors and slogans. Other forms of this type of counterfeiting have followed in the wake of major consumer trends, where illegally copying products, brands, or intellectual property of successful companies has turned into big business in China.
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So, what are some examples of retail operations and major brands that have been copied in China?
Recently, the discovery of illegitimate Apple stores in several Chinese cities sparked controversy both in China and the U.S. The fake Apple store, which was uncovered by theBird Abroad blog , had similar signage, layout and even salespeople as real Apple stores. However, BirdAbroad picked out several key details not common among true Apple stores and correctly pointed out the stores as fake. The stores claimed to have real Apple products, but were not licensed or operated by the company.
Quickly following the public uproar-which included angry customers storming the storesin question demanding refunds-several of the stores were closed, not for their fraudulent use of the Apple brand, but for the lack of proper business licenses.
If it works in the West, it's a sign that China copy-cat stores may not be far behind. In 2006, Starbucks was successful in an intellectual property case against a Chinese company that operated under the name Xingbake, which is Chinese for Starbucks.
There have been numerous reports of fake Starbucks in China, including One Dollar Coffee, Seayahi Cofee, Lucky Coffee, Bucksstar Coffee and more. Bucksstar Coffee in particular was part of a mall that featured several fake storefronts, including a store called "Pizza Huh" and "McDnoalds," with similar color schemes and signage as the western originals, according to the U.K.'s Mirror.
Disney Theme Parks
Although fake stores are relatively widespread in China, more elaborate, but equally illegitimate theme parks have also been built. One of the most glaring examples is the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park, which is run by the Shijingshan district government. The park includes structures that closely resemble Walt Disney 's iconic Magic Kingdom and Epcot center, while mascots strikingly similar to trademarked characters such as Shrek, Snow White, The Seven Dwarfs, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy can be seen around the park. Some of the characters were even spotted outside the Bird's Nest Pavilion during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Although the park caught the attention of Disney in 2007, it remains in operation today and even maintains an English version of its website.
Although China has notoriously been a haven for businesses copying American brands and merchandise, the same has happened for Harry Potter books in China's domestic market,reports The New York Times . The Chinese market has been plagued by Harry Potter fakes that come in many forms.
One type of forgery utilized the same title as an upcoming Potter book and peddlers began selling it several days prior to the official book's release date. Other forgeries have used the text from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," swapping out the original character names with those from the Harry Potter universe and re-titling it "Harry Potter and the Leopard Walk-Up-To Dragon." Unlicensed translations and reproductions, of both Harry Potter and other popular books, are also rampant in China.
See the Full List of 10 Business Fakes Made in China
By Paul Toscano, CNBC.com