Officials defended China's efforts to stop rampant copying of movies and other goods, saying Thursday that 4,322 people had been convicted of product piracy last year and promising special efforts to protect Olympics-related trademarks.
''The Chinese government has taken concrete steps and its success is there for all to see,'' Yin Xintian, a spokesman for the State Intellectual Property Office, said at a news conference. In an annual report, the agency said the authorities had seized nearly 76 million pirated movies, software discs and other goods last year and shut down 13,170 piracy-oriented businesses.
Yin said courts had convicted 4,322 people of product piracy, though he said he did not know what penalties they had received. Officials said they were making special efforts to prevent unlicensed use of Olympics-related logos and other property ahead of the Beijing Summer Games in August.
''We are extending comprehensive and strict protection to Olympic intellectual property,'' Yin said. ''The Chinese government has the resolve and capability to make sure that during the Olympic Games we create a favorable climate for intellectual property.''
China is the source of 80 percent of the fake goods in the world and holds the key to stopping the trade, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said last month. The EU's trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said this week that China's ambition of turning its companies into global innovators would fail unless it increases protection against trademark theft. Yin acknowledged that China faced an uphill struggle against piracy. ''China is a country which has only had an intellectual property rights protection system for a short period of time, just 20 years or so, and people don't know as much about the matter as in Western nations,'' Yin told a news conference.
''It's natural that there will be some piracy.''
Washington filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization in April 2007, accusing Beijing of violating its trade commitments by failing to stop product piracy. Despite China's strengthening of the legal system and numerous highly publicized anti-piracy campaigns, complete with televised burnings of fake DVDs, pirated goods are still openly available. Xu Chao, deputy director general of the National Copyright Administration, said it was often not as simple as it seemed to close such stores.
''Many malls let out counters, and each counter is essentially run independently, and if they do something illegal you'd have to shut the whole mall. So this is a complicated question,'' Xu said.
The State Council on April 9 approved a new intellectual property rights strategy to crack down on infringements, make sure companies follow international practice and raise awareness of intellectual property rights among companies and the nation's 1.3 billion people. It was the first time the cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, had been involved in the process, Yin said Thursday. Xu said the government was still in the midst of a campaign started in 2006 to see that Chinese companies used only licensed software. He said the authorities had no time frame for completing the effort.
''We need time because our regime has not been in place a long time,'' Xu said. ''We hope Western countries can grant us more time,'' he said. ''The international community has to be patient.''