A top Chinese commerce official has said that General Motors hasn’t provided enough evidence to prove that a local company copied one of its car models.

According to the Associated Press (AP), GM China says it is investigating what it sees as similarities between its [Daewoo Matiz-based Chevrolet] Spark minicar and Chery Automobile Corp.’s QQ model.

Deputy commerce minister Zhang Zhigang, speaking at a news briefing to launch a one-year crackdown on rampant violations of intellectual property rights in China, reportedly said there was not enough evidence to pursue a case against the Chinese manufacturer.

“Unless GM provides further evidence to prove that Chery acquired such technology and designs through certain means … just simple similarity in terms of exterior design isn’t sufficient enough to prove that the Chinese company is guilty,” Zhang said.

He said GM can still use other, less formal, means to resolve its complaint against Chery but didn’t elaborate, AP said.

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Zhang’s comments reportedly surprised GM, which said that discussions with both the Ministry of Commerce and Chery to resolve the dispute were ongoing.

“Ministry of Commerce officials have confirmed to us that they haven’t reached a conclusion regarding the merits of the case,” Tim Stratford, general counsel for General Motors China, said in a statement by the Associated Press. “We have been in consultation with relevant Chinese government organisations regarding the results of our investigation … (which) lead us to believe that we have a valid concern and justify our approach to seek Chinese government involvement in addressing the issue,” he said.

AP noted that the dispute has attracted the attention of US lawmakers, including Representative James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who in January described the QQ as “an obvious knockoff” that underscored serious flaws in China’s anti-piracy efforts.

But Zhang Qin, deputy commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office, told AP the Spark design, which GM obtained in its 2002 acquisition of South Korea’s former Daewoo Motor Sales Corp., was never patented in China and thus isn’t protected by China’s intellectual property laws.