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One of China’s leading academic publishers has been ordered by the government to stop selling its version of Beatrix Potter’s 1901 tale about the naughty bunny, lawyers said Monday. The order stems from what a Chinese legal newspaper said is the first dispute of its kind in the country, which often is accused of failing to enforce copyrights and other intellectual property rights. The Chinese-language “Tale of Peter Rabbit,” released in April by China Social Sciences Press, prompted a complaint by the London firm that holds the trademark to Peter’s name and original illustrations. The State Administration for Industry and Commerce blocked the publisher from distributing 20,000 copies of the book after the protest by Frederick Warne Ltd., a division of Penguin Books. The Chinese publisher has filed a lawsuit challenging the order. The company says it holds the copyright to the Chinese translation of “Peter Rabbit.” It also argues that under Chinese law, Potter’s copyright expired 50 years after her 1943 death, allowing anyone to publish both the story and drawings. “The publishing house just wants to protect its legitimate rights,” said Dun Mingyue, a lawyer for the publisher. Potter’s story of the rabbit who is nearly killed after defying his mother’s warnings to avoid the garden of a farmer named McGregor has sold more than 150 million copies in 35 languages. The Legal Daily newspaper last week quoted an unidentified judge as saying the lawsuit asserting that the publisher didn’t violate copyright laws is a “completely new type of case” for China’s courts. But Zhang Zaiping, a Beijing-based trademark consultant for Frederick Warne, rejected the claims by the Social Sciences Press. “The trademarks for both the Chinese characters and the images of Peter Rabbit have already been registered in China,” Zhang said. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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