Apple iPhone

Fake Apple store found in China

Chinese counterfeiters have created a fake Apple store, according to an American blogger.

The store in Kunming, capital of China's mountainous southwestern Yunnan province, has the white Apple logo and wooden tables and looks like Apple stores found all over the world.

However Apply has no stores in the city and just 13 authorized resellers, who must not call themselves Apple stores or claim to work for Apple.

"This was a total Apple store rip-off. A beautiful rip-off - a brilliant one - the best rip-off store we had ever seen," the anonymous 27-year-old blogger posted.

"Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple."

An Apple spokesman in California declined to comment on the fake stores but said consumers can go to the company's website to locate authorised outlets.

Apple is known to take infringement of intellectual property very seriously and acts swiftly to protect its secrets.

When an iPhone prototype turned up at a U.S. bar last year and was sold to technology blog Gizmodo, Apple reacted angrily and investigators raided a journalist's home.

The West has often complained that China is far behind in its efforts to stamp out intellectual property theft.

"Famous U.S. brands, and the respect and loyalty they command from consumers, are critical to our ability to compete in China and around the world," a senior U.S. trade official said.

"Press reports of a fake Apple store are indicative of the challenges we continue to face combating intellectual property theft in China and confronting those challenges is a high priority for the Obama administration."

It was unclear whether the store was selling fake or genuine Apple products.

Countless unauthorized resellers of Apple and other brands' electronic products throughout China sell the real thing but buy their goods overseas and smuggle them into the country to skip taxes.

The store had sections devoted to different Apple products, similar to real Apple stores, and large posters advertising the iPhone 4 and MacBook Pro, according to photos on the blog.

Massive growth in Asia, and China in particular, has recently led to forecast-smashing results for Apple.

Apple executives have said they have just scratched the surface in China and the company is in the process of opening more stores there.

China earlier this year was listed for the seventh year by the U.S. Trade Representative's office as a country with one of the worst records for preventing copyright theft.

Piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. software and a wide range of other intellectual property in China cost U.S. businesses alone an estimated $48 billion and 2.1 million jobs in 2009, the U.S. International Trade Commission said in May.

Apple, which was slow to establish its brand in China, has four retail outlets in Beijing and Shanghai. The firm plans another two more this year, including one in Shanghai and another in Hong Kong.

But the immense popularity of Apple's iPads, iPhones and MacBook computers has spurred a bumper crop of resellers with dubious credentials.

At one unauthorized Apple reseller in Shanghai, the shop was decorated in much the same way as Apple stores, with wooden tables and chairs with iPads laid out for customers to try out.

However the shop was not on a list of authorized Apple resellers in Shanghai and when approached none of the staff claimed to work for Apple or that the store was an actual Apple Store.

"I prefer to get my Apple products fixed here. It's very troublesome going to the real Apple store in Lujiazui because not only do you have to pay to get repairs, but you have to make an appointment to see the sales specialist," said Xavier, a 30-something expatriate who declined to give his last name.

"The prices are the same as the real store but the service is better here," he added.

Further reading:

See photos of the fake Apple store from the blog

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