Alibaba.com … and the 40 (or more) counterfeit and infringment thieves

by Wright Hassall on October 16, 2014

The Alibaba Group (Alibaba) is the world’s largest e-commerce company, its revenues for 2013 were more than Amazon and Ebay combined. Alibaba owns a variety of websites which facilitate online sales:

  • www.alibaba.com: manufacturer to retailer wholesale sales.
  • www.tmall.com: retailer to consumer sales.
  • www.taobao.com:  consumer to consumer sales.

The presence of counterfeit and infringing products on its websites has been an issue for Alibaba. Research conducted by NetNames estimate that up to 80% of the listings on Alibaba’s website Taobao.com said to be its clients were in fact counterfeit or infringing products.

UK businesses have often been frustrated by the difficulties associated with enforcing their intellectual property rights (IPRs) against infringers in China. While there undoubtedly remain enforcement issues in China, it appears that Alibaba has particularly focused its attention on dealing with infringers present on its websites. As Alibaba holds a staggering 80% of the domestic e-commerce market in China, this is undoubtedly good news for UK businesses.

How Alibaba is taking on the thieves

Alibaba is currently preparing to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In the run up to the initial public offering, Alibaba has sought to increase investor confidence in its business by, amongst other things, focusing on its approach to IPR infringements on its websites.

Alibaba’s increased focus on IPR infringements resulted in it launching the Ali IP Platform in 2013 (the Ali IP Platform). This system is operated by AliProtect and is aimed at dealing with complaints relating to alleged IPR infringements. Over the past year, more than 100 million hyperlinks to products suspected of infringing IPRs have been removed from Alibaba’s websites.

More recently, an agreement has been struck between the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) and Alibaba. While the agreement is primarily focused at CBBC’s members, who will be provided with guidance on how to use the IP Platform, the deal hopefully serves as a further indication that Alibaba will treat IPR infringement complaints from UK businesses seriously and infringing products will be removed from its websites.

In the circumstances, UK businesses concerned about listings on Alibaba’s websites may wish to use or revisit the IP Platform.

The Ali IP Platform

The IP Platform works as follows:

  • You must register as a rights holder on the system. You must satisfy AliProtect that you own the relevant rights.
  • Once registered, it is possible to submit the complaint details, including the listing(s) and party being complained of.
  • The respondent will be given an opportunity to respond to your complaint and the listing will be removed in the event that the respondent either accepts the complaint, does not respond or responds in an unsatisfactory way (i.e. cannot prove that its product is not a counterfeit or an intellectual property infringement).

Luke Moulton works in the Intellectual Property Disputes team at Wright Hassall

Wright Hassall
Wright Hassall is a top-ranked firm of solicitors based in Warwickshire. Lexcel and IIP quality accredited, we provide legal services across all areas: corporate law; commercial law; litigation and dispute resolution; employment law and property law. We also advise on areas that you may not expect: medical negligence, personal injury, contentious probate, business immigration, debt recovery, employee incentives, information governance, professional negligence and private client matters.
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