Photos taken by blogger BirdAbroad inside an unauthorized Apple store in China. Just peel off the logos and you’re all good. ( Bird Abroad )

The government regulators response to these stores? Stop using the Apple logo. Not stop selling genuine Apple products, or stop imitating Apple’s store design. Just stop using the logo. And Apple has so far accepted that’s as far as it’s going to go.

So why is the company being so laissez-faire about copycats?

BrandChannel, a Web site about branding, suggests it might have something to do with a comment Bill Gates made while visiting China in the 1990s.

While there, Gates demounced the rampant piracy of Microsoft software. “But rumor had it,” BrandChannel writes, “Gates secretly saw a silver lining and noted privately that all those counterfeit programs were creating a nation of Microsoft-adherents, who, once IP controls were more stringent, would end up buying the real programs they had become comfortable with.”

With strong Asian business credited as behind Apple’s recent surge in sales, the company may just see the same silver lining.