U.S. officials say that China is a leader in the theft of intellectual property, a problem that costs American companies billions of dollars. In Beijing this week, the U.S. commerce secretary met with China's leadership and discussed this tough trade issue.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans says protecting intellectual property is an important part of China's World Trade Organization obligations.

Mr. Evans is visiting China this week, and copyright protection has been on his agenda. He says China is making progress toward solving the problem. He praised Beijing's openness in discussing the issue and willingness to listen to advice from other nations. But Mr. Evans says there is still much work to do. "It's obviously still a problem, a big problem, and we know that and they know that and we'll stay focused on it," Mr. Evans said.

Back in Washington, the head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office recently told Congress that China is one of the areas of "greatest concern" because the piracy of intellectual property grows daily. Patent Chief James Rogan blamed China's expanding Internet use and organized crime for the problem.

U.S. businesses complain that China does too little to protect copyrighted property, including movies, music and computer software. In much of China, pirated copies of hit movies and popular computer games are sold on street corners.

Mr. Rogan told Congress that illegally copied software, movies and music cost American companies more than $22 billion in lost sales worldwide, much of it in China. He also says 118,000 U.S jobs were lost in the software industry because of piracy, and the number is going up. He says there is little evidence of any prosecutions for criminal copyright theft in China.

Chinese officials say they will open a new consulting service on intellectual property in Beijing's business district Friday. China also will open some court hearings on intellectual property to the public.