August 15th, 2008
11:28 AM GMT
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In France, if you try to get into the country with a fake Louis Vuitton handbag, customs officials will confiscate it from you and slash it to shreds before your eyes.If you tote the same bag around in China, no one will even blink. Despite China's efforts to improve intellectual property rights protection, buying fakes is still not against Chinese law. But should it be?

A shopworker in Beijing holds up a handbag based on a Louis Vuitton design.
A shopworker in Beijing holds up a handbag based on a Louis Vuitton design.

The government has been cracking down on counterfeiting operations especially for the Olympics. Authorities have been carrying out raids in cities such as Shenzhen, an industrial town renowned for its plethora of copied goods like fake DVDs, Prada knock-offs and now even bogus iPhones.

The recent crackdown by authorities has sellers skittish for sure. When we made the 45-minute trip there from Hong Kong, one of the touts took us to a shop operating out of a dodgy hotel. Another showed us his secret chamber in a mall where he displayed his best stuff - all of it safely tucked away from inspectors.

The bottom line is the goods were still on sale.

The counterfeit trade employs a lot of people in China. Lawyers hired by multinational companies have complained to me that the economies of entire towns rely on the manufacturing of illegal products so officials are reluctant to step up their efforts to shut these unlawful factories down.

Some buyers I have spoken to have justified their purchases of fakes, saying the international brands are just greedy and shouldn't be charging so much in the first place.

At the end of the day, everyone agrees it's the buyer who is driving demand. So should the buyer be punished? How embarrassed would you be if your fake LV was ripped to pieces in public? Would it stop you from buying a copied product again?

Let me know how you feel.

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