On just about every busy street corner in China street peddlers sell stacks of pirated DVDs and CD-ROMs. In fact counterfeiting is so prevalent it's become a tourist attraction. People don't just visit the Great Wall, they come to frequent the black markets and purchase knock-off Prada sunglasses and poorly stitched Louis Vuitton handbag clones.
To address that problem, multinationals are working with the U.S. government to wage a very public war with China--one that often overshadows the piracy battles foreign investors face in other developing nations. One such nation is India, which quietly has become one of the world's hotbeds of piracy.
Although many factors contribute to this problem, much of it can be attributed to a lack of awareness of IP rights among those tasked with enforcing the laws. "Only recently has law enforcement even become aware of the concept of IP," Thomas says. "Criminal enforcement is coming up to speed, but it's a large country, which makes policing difficult." But even if enforcement efforts improve, companies still will have a difficult time bringing infringers to justice.
Indian courts are notorious for their extensive backlog of cases (see "Litigation and Arbitration," p. 52). And there's no exception for copyright infringement claims, which can take anywhere from five to 12 years to wind their way through the courts.
Doing this due diligence not only protects the U.S. company from infringement but deters the Indian company from infringing on others in the future. "Indian companies are beginning to understand that if they use pirated products, they're not going to attract the business of foreign companies," Thomas says.
The laws governing IP rights in India have undergone substantial change over the past decade.