European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has threatened to take China to the World Trade Organisation over patent infringements. Mandelson says that he "reserves the right to take a case to the WTO" over patent piracy.
Amidst a battle over physical goods currently centred on cheap shoe imports, Mandelson is opening up another front against China relating to intellectual property, which he says is not respected well enough in China.
"They're starting to take much firmer action against Chinese companies ripping off other Chinese companies, but what I want them to do is apply the same standard to European companies,'' Mandelson told newswire Bloomberg.
The European Chamber of Commerce in China represents 1,000 companies, 91% of which have been affected by trade mark or copyright theft, according to a recent survey.
Mandelson said that Chinese intellectual property law is not the problem, it is the enforcement of that law which could lead to a WTO case. "The law exists, but it needs to be enforced," he said.
The EU says that copyright and trade mark violating business is worth €360 billion a year worldwide.
The EU claims that there is €360 billion worth of trade carried out a year worldwide which violates copyright and trade mark protections. It believes that around 70% of those counterfeit goods which end up in Europe originate in China.
It has had several recent summits with the US in an attempt to address the problem. Last June the US and the EU agreed to co-operate more closely in an attempt to fight piracy of all kinds.
"We are out of time now on intellectual property and counterfeiting," Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said at the time.
In a separate trade battle with China the EU last week imposed duties on shoes made there in a bid to protect European shoe makers against what they call unfairly low prices.