China’s role as the world’s knock-off sanctuary has long been a scourge of brand managers, who complain that the Chinese government doesn’t do enough to police the use of names like Rolex and Burberry. But the Beijing authorities have taken an interest in the legal integrity of at least one label: the Olympics 2008 logo, which they own.
It’s not an easy task. For the past several years, the government has seized unauthorized T-shirts, cigarettes, key chains, and other items stamped with the Olympic emblem and sold by street or online vendors. Police have also seized at least 30,000 Fuwa, the official Olympic mascots. The plush toys pictured below are black-market Fuwa, outlaws each of them.
Anticipating the rise of unlicensed Olympic merchandise, the government passed a law in 2002 clarifying its ownership of all things Olympic. Exactly 24 stores are authorized to sell the goods, and Beijing-approved products are tagged with holograms, watermarks, and words visible only under specific lighting. But unsanctioned entrepreneurs remain, and some think bigger than others. In April, the police busted a website that was hawking not fake merchandise but fake tickets, granting admission to a phantom Games of the counterfeiters’ own invention.