Sunday, January 9

The New York Times Magazine takes a look at Chinese counterfeiting. Chinese companies, including government-owned firms, are reverse engineering U.S. pharmaceuticals and producing near perfect replicas. The ease Chinese firms have in recreating products will likely impact the future of a large number of industries that rely on intellectual property rights to generate revenue.
Some of our most valuable things -- software codes, pharmaceutical processes, car designs, digital movie files -- weigh nothing and, as e-mail attachments, can move at the speed of light. To learn American ideas and procedures is all but the same as owning them. (Unless, of course, laws successfully prohibit their co-option.) In contrast, most of what China makes that finds its way into the world market is physical. The Chinese can borrow and steal the designs to our best products all they want. For instance, 90 percent of all software running on Chinese computers has been pirated and bought openly in stores for around $3 a copy. But if Americans wanted to borrow and steal what China makes, we would have to march in with an army and commandeer Chinese factories and workers. Western powers and the Japanese tried that in the mid-19th and -20th centuries, respectively, and will not repeat the experiment. China, however, can in a sense colonize the developed world simply through careful study and a willingness to go its own way on intellectual-property protection.


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