Reports filtering back to the Tokyo headquarters of the Japanese electronics giant NEC in mid-2004 alerted managers that pirated keyboards and recordable CD and DVD discs bearing the company's brand were on sale in retail outlets in Beijing and Hong Kong.
After two years and thousands of hours of investigation in conjunction with law enforcement agencies in China, Taiwan and Japan, the company said it had uncovered something far more ambitious than clandestine workshops turning out inferior copies of NEC products. The pirates were faking the entire company.
In the name of NEC, the pirates copied NEC products, and went as far as developing their own range of consumer electronic products - everything from home entertainment centers to MP3 players. They also coordinated manufacturing and distribution, collecting all the proceeds.
"On the surface, it looked like a series of intellectual property infringements, but in reality a highly organized group has attempted to hijack the entire brand," he said. "It is not a simple case of a factory knocking off a branded product. Many of them have been given bogus paperwork that they say gives them the right to do it."