Which Popular Brand Names Are Being Illegally Used by the Chinese?

VIDEO: Unofficial retail locations may or may not have real Apple products.

Last week Apple Stores accross China made headlines when many were discovered to be unauthorized replicas. These replicas, which often came complete with such Apple Store standards as the the Apple logo, spiral staircase, and in some cases, fully equipped genius bars, had no connection to Apple whatsoever and often sold off-brand products. A blogger for Business Insider reported that one store in Kunming was so convincing that even the employees believed they were working for Apple.

China's massive population has combined with its recent economic deregulation to give it one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world. However, this growth may come at a price to American companies like Apple, which spend millions of dollars on branding each year, only to be exploited by businessmen who can take advantage of China's lax copyright laws to open up stores without the company permission. Here are some of the most frequently copied American companies.

Stolen Arches

McDonald's

When businessman Ray Kroc founded the McDonald's Corporation in 1955 there were only nine McDonald's restaurants, all of them in the United States. Since that time McDonald's has become one of the largest and most recognizable companies in the world, serving more than 58 million customers a day. The company's restaurants, complete with their signature Golden Arches can now be found in 119 countries of the world.

However, not all of these Golden Arches are genuine. Some restaurant owners in China have sought to cash in on McDonald's brand name by using Golden Arches that advertise everything from MiniDogs to McDonlad's. The similair looking logos, color schemes and names can confuse consumers, who may think they are getting McDonald's endorsed food.

Unjust do it

Nike

Named for the Greek goddess of victory, Nike Inc. is one of the largest sportswear companies in the world. The Oregon-based corporation, which employs over 30,000 people, makes everything from tennis shoes to basketball jerseys. The company's extensive marketing strategy, which includes hiring famous athletes to sponsor its products both in advertisements and during competition, has allowed Nike to become one of the most recognizable sportswear brands in the world.

Many have taken note of Nike's success and sought to reap the benefits of this pervasive advertising by using icons similair to the Nike swoosh without the company's permission. Symbols like this, coupled with similair sounding names such as Nibe, can be highly confusing to foriegn consumers who may think they're getting the real thing.

Pizza Huh?

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut is a successful American based franchise. According to its corporate website, the company has more than 6,000 restaurants in the United States, with an estimated 5,600 other franchises in 94 countries around the world. One of these countries is China, where legal franchise owners face competition from others who, while not using the Pizza Hut brand, attempt to capitilize on its noteriety by using similair names and nearly identical logos.

Bizzarrebucks

Starbucks

Starbuck's 17,000-plus locations in more than 50 countries make it the largest coffeehouse company in the world. For many consumers, the company's green and white mermaid logo is synonomous with coffee drinking. Despite its large global presence Starbucks has only a few stores in China, but that hasn't stopped people there from illegally copying their model.

In 2006 Starbucks won a lawsuit against Xingbake, a Chinese coffeehouse company. Starbucks alleged that both the name Xingbake (which translates roughly to Starbucks) and the green and white logo (which featured a coffee cup instead of a mermaid) violated copyright laws by being too similair to Starbucks. The courts agreed and Xingbake was ordered to change its name.

Right Ignöring

IKEA

The brands on this list thus far have been American but don't let that fool you, there's no discrimination when it comes to copyright infringement. Swedish furniture company IKEA has had to deal with copycat companies as well. One such company is 11 Furniture in Kunming. The Chinese furniture store encorporates many of IKEA's trademark features such as the yellow and blue design and the tendency to have a cafeteria style restaurant inside. Although they don't sound the same in English, the names Furniture 11 (Shi Yi Jia Ju) and IKEA (Yi Jia Jia Ju) sound remarkably similair in Chinese.

Fashion Police

Dolce & Gabbana

In the world of high-end fashion, brand means everything. Fashion designers such as Dolce & Gabana go to great lengths to insure that their brand is associated with a certain level of design and quality. However, this has not deterred imitators, who have created stores such as Dolce & Banana, which appears to be an attempt to combine Dolce & Gabana with Banana Republic

Colonel OffBranders

KFC

Don't let the name fool you, KFC or Kentucky Fried Chicken, as it was formerly known, is not just an American-based restaurant. According to its website, the company has more than 20,000 locations in 109 countries and territories, more than 15,000 of which are overseas. This strong international presence and brand recognition has attracted copycats in countries like China, where restaurants with names like KLC and red and white signboards abound.

Amusement Farce

Shijingshan Park

Trying to copy the feel and brand of a single store without getting caught is a difficult task for any would-be businessman. But successfully imitating an entire amusement park? That would seem to be impossible. Apparently that didn't deter the builders of Beijing's Shijingshan Park. The park, which opened in 1986, features a castle bearing a remarkable similarity to Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle, a building that looks a lot like Disney World's Epcot Spaceship Earth, and a host of costume characters that many believe are not so loosely based on characters from American and Japanese popular culture.

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