China Pledges More Intellectual Property Protection

Beijing 'regrets' a WTO decision siding with the U.S. in a product piracy complaint, but said it will cooperate with other countries to strengthen intellectual property rights protection.

BEIJING (AP) -- China said Tuesday it "regrets" a World Trade Organization decision that largely sides with the U.S. in a product piracy complaint, but said it will cooperate with other countries to strengthen measures to protect intellectual property rights.

The WTO decision, released Monday, said China breached trade rules by turning a blind eye to the piracy of CDs and DVDs that haven't been passed by state censors. It also faulted Beijing for allowing seized goods to be reintroduced into the market if the infringing material is removed.

"China expresses thorough regret" over that decision and is still assessing it, Commerce Ministry spokesman Yao Jian said in a statement posted Tuesday on the ministry's Web site.

Beijing, however, welcomed the panel's judgment not to uphold Washington's complaint that Chinese thresholds for prosecuting piracy break WTO rules, Yao said.

The U.S. claims the thresholds allow pirates of everything from designer clothes to medicines to tailor their operations to avoid prosecution by staying just below the minimum level of 500 infringing copies.

China "has always attached great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights" and has made great strides on the issue, Yao said.

Chinese authorities will continue to strengthen efforts to protect property rights and will promote international exchanges and cooperation, he said.

"Protecting intellectual property is a global issue," Yao said.

China has long been the world's leading source of illegally copied goods and Washington has for years complained that the country is a safe haven for product piracy and counterfeiting.

Monday's WTO ruling, which confirms an interim decision in October, takes the U.S. one step closer to being able to seek compensation from China for the billions of dollars American companies claim to lose through product piracy each year.

Both sides can appeal the ruling.

The U.S. brought the case in 2007 after negotiations with China to resolve the dispute failed. Beijing heavily criticized Washington for taking the issue to the WTO's dispute settlement panel, saying it could damage trade relations between the countries.