Asian sites that found themselves on the list are Indonesia’s Bukalapak and Chinese companies DHgate and Ebookee; Zing.vn was removed
After hard lobbying and a public acknowledgement of Alibaba’s counterfeiting problem from Executive Chairman Jack Ma, the e-commerce giant was not placed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) blacklist of sites selling fake goods.
However, the page-and-a-half breakdown within the report was anything but a glowing endorsement for Alibaba’s attempt to clampdown on the ease in which counterfeits can be sold on its various platforms.
“Despite these new procedures, USTR is increasingly concerned by rights holders’ reports that Alibaba Group’s enforcement programme is too slow, difficult to use and lacks transparency. USTR does not re-list Taobao or Alibaba at this time but it encourages the company to enhance cooperation with all stakeholders to address ongoing complaints,” the report said.
The new procedures mentioned in the report include:
- A good faith product takedown procedure
- A three and four strike penalty system
- An English language portal named TaoProtect for submitting international property rights violations and takedown requests
- A focus on customer service which gets a positive review in the report
e27 has reached out to Alibaba and will update accordingly.
In an email statement sent to Reuters the company said:
“Counterfeiting is an issue all global e-commerce companies face, and we are doing all we can to address and fight it. We will continue to work with brands, governments and our sellers to maintain the integrity of our marketplaces.”
The USTR did offer advice to improve Alibaba’s anti-counterfeiting measures.
They government agency recommends TaoBao simplify enforcement requests, make takedown requests on TaoBao more available and improve the overall efficiency of takedowns and penalties.
Alibaba’s anti-counterfeiting procedures have been an ongoing story in 2015.
In April, the American Apparel and Footwear association sent letters to the USTR and US Securities and Exchange Commission complaining about “sluggish or non-existent implementation of updated takedown procedures”.
The company was sued in May by notable brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent over its counterfeiting headache. Jack Ma has been defiant about the lawsuit and in November expressed his willingness to take the battle to court.
Finally, in October, Reuters reported Alibaba was lobbying hard to the USTR to not be included on the report.
There are no legal or financial consequences for being included on the list, but it does damage a company’s reputation.
Alibaba Group was on the list from 2008 before Alibaba.com was de-listed in 2011 and TaoBao was removed in 2012.
A problem in China
While not speaking directly about Alibaba, the USTR dedicated a section of the report to the Chinese e-commerce ecosystem.
It commended the efforts of Chinese officials to diagnose and present solutions to the counterfeiting problem but also included the following, rather damning, sentence:
“US rights holders observe that the efforts of Chinese e-commerce platforms to restrict counterfeit sales have not kept pace with the rapid growth of online sales in China, which grew 40 per cent last year to almost US$442 billion.”
Also Read: 5 things Mailbird learned selling on Alibaba
Other Asian news from the report
Vietnamese company Zing.vn, a popular social media and music-portal platform, was removed after being listed between 2012-2014. The agency cited improved efforts to address copyright infringement and licensing violations within the music portion of the company.
Asian tech companies that did find themselves on the list were Indonesia’s Bukalapak and Chinese companies DHgate and Ebookee.
Bukalapak won the ‘best e-commerce site’ award at this year’s Bubu Awards in October. The USTR cited a lack of effective reporting and removing procedures as reason for being listed.
DHgate is a B2B e-commerce platform, while Ebookee is a free e-book search and download website.
Globally, the industries most affected by counterfeiting are retail, luxury goods, electronics and pharmaceuticals. The USTR said because of low operating costs, the practice can be just as profitable for criminal gangs as selling illegal drugs.
There are provisions in the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to address online trademark violations, according to the report.
The USTR is a government agency that works with the international community to negotiate trade deals, settle disputes and participate in global trade policy talks.
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