After a recent blog post and photos from an American living abroad revealed the existence of several unofficial Apple stores in Kunming, China, public outrage and a government investigation have resulted in two of the businesses being ordered to close.
Reuters reports that two of the fives stores investigated by Chinese officials will have to close, but not because of any piracy concerns or copyright violations. The stores have been ordered to close because they did not have an official business permit.
Last week, we reported on expatriate blogger BirdAbroad‘s account of the fake Apple stores, which were modeled after the company’s signature designs for its retail locations — even down to employees’ uniforms and ID badges. The story and photos quickly became an Internet sensation, and prompted customers uncertain of their products’ legitimacy to flood the store with complaints and demands for refunds.
The blog post also prompted a government investigation into the five locations around Kunming that ended with two of the stores being ordered to close. However, the stores that were the subjects of BirdAbroad’s report and the focus of much of the outrage were not among the shops being shut down.
“Media should not misunderstand the situation and jump to conclusions. Some overseas media has made it appear the stores sold fake Apple products,” a spokesman of Kunming government’s business bureau told Reuters. “China has taken great steps to enforce intellectual property rights and the stores weren’t selling fake products.”
According to the most recent report, officials are now investigating whether Apple’s store design was protected under Chinese law. Copying the “look and feel” of protected companies’ stores is prohibited, but officials haven’t determined if Apple is one of the companies that falls under that protection.