Piracy also on four wheels


By Gilberto Scofield Jr. - Correspondent - O Globo - 27/09/2004

BEIJING. Keeping an eye on China's growing market? in the first seven months of the year, three million vehicles were produced, an increase of 23% over the same period in 2003? multinational and Chinese automakers have been waging a war involving intellectual property rights. This is the case of General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and Honda, who have filed a lawsuit in China against local automakers Geely, Chery, Lifan, Shuanghuan and Great Wall Motors.

The charges range from piracy of models and logos to unfair competition using below-cost prices, a practice known as dumping. The most famous fight is that involving the Japanese Toyota and the Chinese Geely, one of the largest in the country. Toyota claimed to the Chinese court that the Geely logo was the same as its own and requested compensation of $ 1,7 million. Although the two logos are very similar, the Chinese court denied Toyota's appeal in November 2003, the first major decision on intellectual property rights after China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

There is also the case of the American General Motors. Last year, the company said that the QQ mini, from China's Chery Auto mobile, was a copy of its Chevrolet Spark model. The Americans produce the Spark based on the Matiz model, originally from the Korean Daewoo, bought by GM and produced in the autonomous region of Guangxi, in southern China.

Chery, for its part, denies having infringed patents, but the pressure from GM is so strong that the Ministry of Commerce decided to intervene and invited executives from the American automaker and representatives of the Chinese government to discuss the matter. So far, nothing has been decided.

Other lawsuits are in court. A fight has been going on for more than a year between Honda and its Chinese competitor Lifan. Do the Japanese say Lifan uses his former name? Honda? to sell similar products and deceive the consumer. Therefore, he asks for compensation of US $ 1,5 million. Lifan denies and says that the products displayed by Honda were not produced by the company.

At the same time, Honda accuses China's Shuanghuan Automobile of infringing intellectual property rights on the Laibao SRV model. The car, says Honda, would be a copy of its sporty CR-V. And Nissan accuses the Great Wall Motor Company of pirating the design of its SUV Frontier model with the fake Sing SUV. The Chinese deny it.