Fake Apple Store in China Even Fools Staff

Chinese counterfeiters have had a field day pumping out knockoffs of Apple Inc’s best-selling iPhones and iPads, but one appears to have gone a step further – a near flawless fake Apple Store where even employees believe is the real deal.

A man dressed as an Apple employee assists a customer in a fake Chinese Apple store. Photo: BirdAbroad

A 27-year-old American blogger living in the city Kunming, the capital of China’s mountainous southwestern Yunnan province, stumbled this “fake” store.

The blogger with the name “BirdAbroad” asserted that store looks every bit like Apple Stores found all over the world. Wooden tables and cheery staff are completed with the white Apple logo.

The staff claimes they really work for the iPhone maker. As a real Apple store, it had sections devoted to different Apple products and large posters advertising the iPhone 4 and MacBook Pro.

But Apple has no stores in Kunming and only 13 authorized resellers in the city, who are not allowed to call themselves Apple Stores or claim to work for Apple.

Signs and product placement are indistinguishable from the real thing. Photo: BirdAbroad

The anonymous blogger posted on Wednesday: “This was a total Apple store rip-off. A beautiful rip-off – a brilliant one – the best rip-off store we had ever seen.”

He added: “Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple.”

An Apple spokesman in California rejected to comment on the fake stores but said consumers can go to the company’s website to locate authorized outlets.

Apple takes infringement of intellectual property very seriously and acts swiftly to protect its secrets. When an iPhone prototype turned up at a U.S. bar last year and was sold to a technology blog Gizmodo, Apple kicked up a furor and investigators raided a journalist’s home.

The United States has often complained China is woefully behind in its effort to stamp out intellectual property theft.

The fake Apple store has the same table design and product placement as authentic Apple stores. Photo: BirdAbroad

It was not clear whether the store was selling fake or genuine Apple products. Many unauthorized resellers of Apple and other brands’ electronic products throughout China sell the real thing but buy their goods overseas and smuggle them into the country to skip taxes.

The Cupertino, California-based firm reported forecast-smashing results on Tuesday, helped by massive growth in Asia, and China in particular. Apple executives have said they have just scratched the surface in China and the company is in the process of opening more stores there.

This year China was listed for the seventh year by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office as a country with one of the worst records for preventing copyright theft.

Also, piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. software and a wide range of other intellectual property in China cost U.S. businesses alone an estimated $48 billion and 2.1 million jobs in 2009, the U.S. International Trade Commission said in May. [Photos via BirdAbroad; via Reuters and The New York Times]

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