Angry Birds sweet-talk pirates in booming mainland market
By John Ruwitch and Jane Lanhee Lee, ReutersSHANGHAI -- When Peter Vesterbacka visited China last spring, the marketing chief for Rovio, the Finnish firm behind the video game Angry Birds, saw fake Angry Birds products everywhere — and he was happy about it.
June 27, 2012, 11:51 am TWN
“I realized that China was already happening in a big way for us,” Vesterbacka said in an interview.
“When you see all these knockoffs, you know that there is a lot of demand.”
That rosy view of an intellectual property problem that has vexed global brands for decades — and sparked friction in China's relations with the United States and others — underpins Rovio's novel approach to the world's fastest-growing consumer market.
While many companies go on the offensive against counterfeiters with legions of lawyers, Rovio is taking a mixed approach: waving a legal stick at some pirates, but seeking ways to cooperate with, and appropriate ideas from, others.
“It is definitely not a traditional approach,” said Kenny Wong, a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown in Hong Kong.
While skeptics may see spin behind Rovio's enthusiasm for Chinese fakes, there are also benefits to accepting the reality that China is the world's top source of intellectual property ripoffs and its courts can't always help.
One Billion Downloads
Rovio boasts a billion downloads of its video game, launched in late 2009, in which cartoon birds are hurled from a slingshot at pigs that stole their eggs. China, with 140 million downloads, is the second largest Angry Birds market behind the United States.