The U.S. Golf Manufacturers Anti-Counterfeiting Working Group (the “Group”, comprised of Acushnet Company, Callaway Golf, Cleveland Golf, Nike Golf, PING and TaylorMade Golf Company) reports that the Panyu District Court convicted the defendant Tan Jian (“Tan”) of selling counterfeit golf clubs. Tan was sentenced to four years and three months in jail and was ordered to pay a fine of RMB$80,000 (approx. USD $16,667). Tan has filed an appeal to the conviction.
The defendant is a 23 year old male Chinese native from Fengshu Village, Xiadong Town, Chaling County, Hunan Province. Tan was arrested on 30th April, 2007 for allegedly committing the crime of trademark counterfeiting after the Group successfully petitioned the local law enforcement agency, the Public Security Bureau (PSB), to conduct an investigation of the defendant’s business operation.
The criminal hearing was conducted in Panyu on 15th October 2007 before a three judge panel. The Court determined that the sale of counterfeit golf products in this case caused great economic harm and damage to the victim brand owners, especially in southern China where much of the legitimate golf industry is concentrated. Additionally, the large monetary value attached to the seized golf products (RMB 4.7 million, about USD $640000) established that Tan Jian’s counterfeiting constituted a ‘very serious crime’ and the defendant was sentenced in compliance with the PRC Criminal Code and Judicial Interpretation.
Shih Yann Loo, a principal with the law firm of Baker & McKenzie states, “The custodial sentence of 4 years and 3 months is significant as it sends a very strong message that this Chinese Court is no longer prepared to take the soft approach when it comes to sentencing for IPR related crimes.
“There is also implicit recognition that this Court is prepared to recognize that theft of intellectual property will be viewed like any other criminal violations and punished in accordance with the laws in place. Hopefully, this will serve not only as a deterrent but will encourage other judicial organs in China to be more proactive in investigating and prosecuting IPR infringements”.
The Group was formed to petition governments to enforce their country’s laws against counterfeiters of golf equipment products. As a result of the Group’s petitioning efforts, dozens of successful raids of manufacturing, assembly and retail facilities have been conducted by Chinese law enforcement authorities over the past four years. Several business operators have been arrested and many have now been prosecuted in the Chinese courts.