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US, Japan Teaming Up to Fight Product Piracy in China

The United States and Japan have joined to fight product piracy and counterfeiting. Officials from both countries think the effort also will protect intellectual property in China and other nations.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez wrapped up a week in Asia by telling American businesspeople Friday that they must work closer with Japanese businesses to better safeguard intellectual property.

Gutierrez a day earlier met Japan's trade minister, Toshihiro Nikai. The two agreed to what Nikai calls an "all out effort for the protection of intellectual property rights."

Speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, the commerce secretary said one of his highest priorities is to safeguard patent and trademarks.

"We can't allow a world to be created where our intellectual property is not respected," he said. "So it affects both American and Japanese companies and workers probably more so than any other two countries in the world."

Under the accord, Tokyo and Washington will create a manual for companies to explain how they can seek remedies when their intellectual property rights are infringed.

Japanese officials say the main target of the agreement is China, where piracy of trademarks and patents costs foreign businesses billions of dollar annually.

Gutierrez, who spent five days in China before arriving in Japan on Thursday, says he believes China is entering a phase of economic development that will prompt it to become more serious about cracking down on piracy.

"Interestingly in their five-year plan they're talking about becoming an innovation society," he noted, " which we think is very favorable because it forces them also to think about things like intellectual property, which we think is good for the world trading community."

U.S. businesses complain they suffer major losses from piracy of music and films in China. For the Japanese, their major complaint is about Chinese theft of designs and trademarks, especially of appliances and motorcycles.

One of those listening to Gutierrez's speech was an attorney who is an expert on intellectual property law. John Kakinuki says he expects this week's agreement will lead to the United States and Japan taking a proactive approach in China.

"Part of that includes things like the United States and Japan sending people from the government and people from industry to train the Chinese government," he explained, "its customs inspectors, its judges, police, people who do the raids - on what is a patent, what is a trademark, what can be done as a matter of fair trade and what should not be allowed."

Last year, Washington and Tokyo began a process under the World Trade Organization to obtain more information about Beijing's enforcement of intellectual property rights. But officials here say China has yet to present any of the requested data.