U.S.-China probe nets $500 million fake software

Seized goods include 47,000 counterfeit Microsoft CDs and gear to make fake Symantec software products.

More than $500 million worth of pirated software, including counterfeit Microsoft and Symantec products, has been seized in a long-running joint probe by Chinese police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, officials from both countries said on Tuesday.

The operation began in 2005 and has led to 25 arrests and the smashing of several pirating syndicates in China that were making and distributing counterfeit software around the world, mostly to the United States.

"The cooperation between the U.S. and China is an important development," said Steven Hendershot, the FBI's legal attache in Beijing. "But we still have a long way to go."

Widespread intellectual property rights violations across a range of industries, including software, music, movies and fashion, have been a major source of friction between China and major trade partners the United States and Europe.

Details of what officials called the "unprecedented co-operative effort" between China's policing ministry and the FBI were unveiled to the media at an intellectual property conference in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

More than 290,000 counterfeit software CDs and certificates of authenticity have been seized in the operation.

Six manufacturing and retail facilities were dismantled and 47,000 counterfeit Microsoft CDs seized, as well as equipment to manufacture Symantec computer software products.

The FBI estimated the retail value of the software seized at more than $500 million.

The figure represents 10 percent of software piracy losses in China in 2006, according to the Business Software Alliance.