Obama, Ballmer urge China to step up IP enforcement

Microsoft CEO says only one in 10 customers pays for its products in China

U.S. President Barack Obama and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pressed Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday to step up enforcement of intellectual property rights in his country.

In a move that indicates China's decade of efforts to crack down on software piracy has failed in the eyes of foreign businesses, Ballmer met with Obama and the Chinese leader at the White House to push the issue. Hu is currently on an official visit to the U.S.

"So we were just in a meeting with business leaders, and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft pointed out that their estimate is that only one customer in every 10 of their products is actually paying for it in China," Obama told a news conference in Washington.

Obama indicated that Hu had agreed to take action.

"I appreciate his willingness to take new steps to combat the theft of intellectual property," the U.S. president said.

Under pressure from foreign business leaders over the past 10 years, China periodically arrests the manufacturers and sellers of counterfeit DVDs and CDs. Some discs, often sold on street corners or in public markets, are Microsoft operating systems sold at fractions of the market price. Other fake discs are sold online.

China also pledged in October to take up the issue as the U.S. attorney general visited Beijing.

Companies from Europe, Japan and the United States have all urged China to boost enforcement. Chinese authorities sometimes hesitate to bust counterfeit rings as they help support local economies.

Ballmer himself weighed in at the meeting between the two presidents and U.S. business leaders, according to statement on Microsoft's blog.

"At the meeting, Ballmer highlighted the importance of intellectual property, or IP, to the future success and economic development of both countries, and noted the serious IP piracy problems that currently exist in China," the statement said.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)