Angry Birds attracts imitators in a booming Chinese market

When Peter Vesterbacka visited China last spring, the head of marketing for Rovio, the Finnish company that is the game Angry Birds, said he had seen fake products related to the game throughout and was happy about that.

“I realized that China was already there for us greatly,” said Vesterbacka in an interview.

“When you see all these imitations, you know there is high demand.”

This optimistic view of the intellectual property issue that has troubled global brands for decades, and caused friction in relations between China and the United States and other countries underpins Rovio novel approach to the consumer market fastest growing in the world.

While many companies are faced with counterfeiters with legions of lawyers, Rovio implements a mixed approach: defending the legal fight against some pirates but look for ways to cooperate with others who have adequate ideas.

“Definitely, this is not a traditional approach,” said Kenny Wong, a partner at law firm Mayer Brown in Hong Kong.

While some skeptics may see a turn behind the enthusiasm of Rovio by Chinese imitations, there are also benefits to accept the reality that China is the main source of counterfeit intellectual property of the world and the courts can not always help.


Rovio has made one billion downloads of its game, introduced in late 2009 and in which cartoon birds are launched from a slingshot to shoot down the pigs that have stolen their eggs. China, with 140 million downloads, is the second largest market for Angry Birds behind the United States.

Starting next month, the company is planning to launch an offensive to retail stores and “business parks” Angry Birds in China.

Paul Chen, general manager of Rovio in China, said the company is concerned about the violation of their intellectual property and leave behind some pirates, especially those that produce dangerous products.

But he added: “We tend to want to collaborate.”

Rovio said it is recruiting some intellectual property offenders to become partners and even offer free space to advertise on the application of Angry Birds.

The company also sells balloons now licensed Angry Birds after seeing a pirated Vesterbacka in Beijing earlier this year and liked the idea. He calls it “the pirates pirate.”

“This can be a model of success,” said Xiang Wang, an intellectual property attorney at the firm Orrick. Shoe manufacturers, integrated circuit chip and laminate flooring are among those who have cooperated successfully with Chinese counterfeiters, he said.

The alternative, to attack the pirates on the stand, can be a slippery slope.

“You can win on paper, but paper does not mean anything. When are you going to enforce the judgment, local companies pay to judges and government officials so your application can take years,” Wang said

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