The hits (and trademark misses) just keep coming out of China, whose authorities now say they’ve uncovered a whopping 22 fake Apple stores—and that’s just in the city of Kunming, where this strange, sordid tale of Apple retail ne’er do wells started.
According to Xinhua News Agency, China’s official press agency, the country’s Administration for Industry and Commerce ”market watchdog” is on top of it, ordering the stores to cease and desist after Apple China (that’s the official Apple-sanctified Apple China) accused the pass-offs of violating its registered trademark and unfair competition.
By “fake,” China means stores designed to look very much like actual Apple Stores, but that don’t have Apple’s (or apparently Chinese authorities’) official blessing. Also at issue: whether these stores are selling authentic Apple products, or cheap knockoffs (speaking of, Techland editor Doug Aamoth just took an amusing look at China’s ‘HiPhone 5′, and you should, too).
Just last month, an American traveling through Kunming (a city in southwestern China) noticed what appeared to be an “Apple Store,” and dropped in to check it out. What she found: an almost-convincing dupe of Apple’s “Starship Ikea” vibe, replete with wood-style tables, stone tile floors, iPads on acrylic stands and employees in blue T-shirts with Apple-y necklace name tags.
But looking closer, she discovered things weren’t quite as they seemed. For instance, instead of Apple’s simple, iconic bitten-fruit logo on the store glass, she noticed the words “Apple Store” (and in another instance, misspelled “Apple Stoer”—see the shot up top) under the logo.
China’s AIC apparently plans to roll out a complaint hotline to help track other illicit vendors, and says it’ll step up surveillance to mitigate further violations. Chinese authorities already shuttered two Apple store knockoffs last month for operating without a business license.