HALTING THE WORLD'S PIRATES

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When the U.S. government went to the mat last month with China over the issue of piracy, the move was not just to halt the dollar losses suffered by U.S. marketers; it was to protect their brands.

During the down-to-the-wire negotiations with China, U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor held two boxes of Microsoft Word-one legitimate, one a copy. The similarity was awesome. How could a consumer decipher the difference (other than through the price differential)?

Marketers increasingly have placed more value on the concept of brands. Young & Rubicam conducted a study last year that tried to measure this value. Others have ranked the top brands worldwide. IBM last year dramatically chose to regain value lost on its well-known three-lettered brand by consolidating its advertising with one agency, Ogilvy & Mather.

The Clinton administration is to be applauded for taking the stand with China, by threatening the imposition of 100% tariffs on $1.1 billion of Chinese-made products.

The threat, however, was only a beginning. True, the Chinese government pledged to crack down on its pirates, but the move served another purpose. It increased the awareness of the piracy problem. As our story on Page I-3 notes, an increasing number of marketers-mostly through trade associations-are expanding ad campaigns to do the same.

Other U.S. marketers, such as Reebok International and Levi Strauss & Co., worried more by a stolen brand image than monetary loss, often fight their battles through public relations campaigns. Reebok, fighting piracy primarily in China and South Korea, said it generally reaches business and trade publications through Ketchum Public Relations, New York, instead of ads.

Some countries, such as Germany and Peru, are helping U.S. marketers with tough new laws that could mean trouble for pirates. Germany's new Brand Law enables marketers to protect not only their brand logo but also the logo's colors and the product's packaging design.

Certainly, the piracy problem can't be dropped simply because the U.S. has come to an understanding with China. Piracy is a problem in many other areas of the world. The U.S. government should be encouraged to continue to press the issue elsewhere.

Only after marketers can be reassured their brands will be protected worldwide can there truly be a free global marketplace.

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