Nearly a third of all confectionary sold in China are counterfeit or copycats of global brands, a new European Commission survey has revealed.

The intellectual property enforcement survey for 2006, based on questionnaires about infringements and the attitudes of the authorities in the countries concerned, put China at the top of the tree for sweet fraud. According to the returns received from businesses, industrial federations and diplomatic missions, "for the confectionary business, the infringement causes more than 30% loss in sales value every year".

Although the Commission acknowledged that China has been very co-operative about tackling fraud, most of those who replied to the new survey complained that the measures adopted by the Chinese authorities were ineffective, and that fines did not reflect the value of the business lost.

The Brussels-based International Confectionery Association has highlighted an example of the problems faced by confectioners. The Ferrero Group's Ferrero Rocher brand suffered a copycat brand produced by the Chinese Montresor company, because of the Chinese New Year trade. People believe that sweets wrapped in gold foil bring good fortune and wealth, and Montresor produced a sweet identical in every important particular to cash in on this seasonal trade. Ferrero won a case for infringement against Montresor earlier this year, which seemed to settle the issue. However, Ferrero's Beijing attorneys discovered that the ruling needed to be signed by the President of the Supreme Court, to be enforced, and this signature was missing. As a result, reported the association, Montresor was able to show its Ferrero copies without sanction at the World of Food China Exhibition in Shanghai this September.