Last week, an American blogger visiting China stumbled upon an “Apple Store” that wasn’t quite right. It looked like an Apple Store, complete with Apple displays, and workers in blue shirts and Apple nametags. It even had the signature winding staircase that can be found in many Apple Stores. But the stairs were poorly made, the painting was shabby, and the Apple branding was off. Actual Apple Stores just display the Apple logo, with no wording underneath.
Her story about the imitation Apple Stores went viral, and eventually led to a Chinese investigation of the offending stores. Authorities in Kunming, the city in question, examined whether or not the stores had proper licensing and permits, and looked into where the goods were coming from.
As a result of that investigation, two of the fake Apple Stores were shut down by Chinese authorities, due to a lack of proper business licenses. However, in total, there are five unauthorized Apple Stores in Kunming, and three have been allowed to remain open.
The products being sold in the copycat Apple Stores are indeed genuine Apple products purchased from resellers, rather than cheap knock-offs. The Chinese government seems less concerned about Apple’s branding rights and more concerned that the offending stores are selling actual Apple products.
“Media should not misunderstand the situation and jump to conclusions,” said Chang Puyun, spokesman of Kunming’s business bureau. “China has taken great steps to enforce intellectual property rights and the stores weren’t selling fake products.”
While Kunming officials seem to be missing the point, Chang did mention that they are undertaking an investigation to discover whether Apple applied with the Chinese government to have its store design protected by law. While Chinese law does prohibit companies from duplicating the look and feel of a branded design, enforcement of that law does not always happen.
Back in May, China was listed by the US Trade Representative’s office as the country with the worst record for preventing copyright theft. The two “Apple Stores” in Kunming weren’t shut down because they replicated a true Apple Store, instead, they simply didn’t have the proper licenses to be running a store in the first place.
Apple has not commented on the situation, and whether or not the other three stores will be shut down by the government remains to be seen. It does, however, point to a more widespread problem. The original blog poster has had multiple comments from people about other fake Apple Stores, not just in China, but across the globe. There’s even an “Apple Story” fake right in Flushing, New York. Will Apple be able to put a stop to all this global copycatting? Is it even worth the time, if it’s genuine Apple products that are being sold? Either way, if you’re unsure about an Apple Store, there’s a list of official, worldwide Apple Stores listed on Apple’s website.