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Warning to Chinese copycat cars

German chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in on the issue yesterday. In a speech in Beijing, she described plagiarism and copyright infringement in China as 'a big problem.'

DaimlerChrysler said it would consider unspecified legal action if Chinese carmaker Shuanghuan Automobile showed the Noble, which it says closely resembles its Smart Fortwo minicar at next month's Frankfurt Motor Show.

“We take intellectual property protection very seriously,” a DaimlerChrysler spokesman said.

“We decided to reserve the right to pursue legal action.”

BMW said it was considering legal action against the importer of another Shuanghuan vehicle the CEO, which it claims closely resembles a previous version of its X5 sports utility vehicle that was discontinued last year. Shuanghuan and China Automobile Deutschland, the importer, could not be reached for comment.

Ms Merkel said “If suddenly a car turns up that looks like a Smart but isn't one, but rather a copy produced by not entirely legal means, then that's not good.”

DaimlerChrysler, which following its sale of Chrysler, is due to change its name to Daimler in October has not elaborated on its legal plans, but the company is understood to have contacted Shuanghuan about the issue.

The German company last year succeeded in stopping another Chinese producer, CMEC, from bringing to market another vehicle that closely resembled the Smart.

Global carmakers, including Germany's, are seeking to entrench their positions in China, now the world's second-largest vehicle market after the US, while seeking to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights.

More Chinese Cars: Great Wall Motors