Not long after a new Apple product is released, a counterfeit version invariably turns up on the streets of China. We've seen knock-off iPods, iPhones, even iPads come out of China but they're always a little off and pretty easy to distinguish from the real thing.
Apparently the Chinese have conquered counterfeiting Apple gadgets because they're moved on to copying entire Apple Stores. And I don't mean unauthorized or grey market Apple stores (there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of them) I mean wholesale clones of Apple's iconic retail Stores. With a capital S.
Bird Abroad posted a series of photos from new, unauthorized "Apple Stores" which are cropping up in the city of Kunming, China. The photos were taken at three knock-off "Apple" retail stores in Kunming, ironically the stores aren't even authorized Apple resellers.
The pictures pretty much speak for themselves:
Check out this Apple "Genius" complete with trademark Apple t-shirt and business-card lanyard.
This could pass as just about any Apple Store and many people would assume it to be run by Apple.
Another shot of what could easily be mistaken as an Apple retail store.
Not only does Apple not use the words "Apple Store" in its branding, it would be spelled correctly if it did.
NPR noted the proliferation of fake Apple Stores cropping up in China on its blog and it has been asserted that although Apple acknowledges that the three stores in Kunming are indeed fake, it doesn't appear to be doing anything to try to stop them.
One of the theories for the lack of enforcement is that Apple manufactures most of its goods in China and doesn't want to rock the boat with the Chinese government, which issues and controls all retail business licenses in the country. It will be interesting to see if Apple can or will attempt to crack down on these egregious trademark violations.
Update: According to China Real Time Report, "a store employee reached by phone [has] confirmed that the store is not an authorized Apple reseller. The salesman said products in the store are genuine Apple products sold at the same prices as those advertised on Apple's website." If true, I wonder where it's sourcing inventory and how it's making any money...