Although being placed on the Notorious Markets list of the US Trade Representative (USTR) brings no direct penalties, for the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba it might still be a slap in the face considering the company’s numerous anti-piracy efforts.
In its report, the USTR acknowledges the actions Alibaba has taken to combat counterfeiting on its trading platforms. It does, however, admonish that some key issues have still not been resolved. Above all, the USTR criticises that Alibaba has submitted too few files. “The data provided by Alibaba to date does not directly reflect the scope and status of the counterfeiting problem on the Taobao.com platform but instead is merely suggestive of progress made,” the USTR report said.
In a detailed statement, Alibaba vehemently disputes the allegation and argues that the USTR’s ruling would not stand up to any reasonable scrutiny. “We have been more transparent than any platform in the world regarding the presence of counterfeit products on our platforms. Nobody – not Amazon, not eBay – has been as transparent as we have been,” the e-commerce site adds.
In addition, the USTR also criticises clear deficits in the implementation of existing protective measures. For instance, it is still difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to report trademark infringements on Taobao and have illicit offers taken down. “In 2017, more SMEs have requested assistance from US government agencies and embassies regarding Taobao.com than any other e-commerce platform,” the report said. This might be due to the fact, the USTR continues, that Alibaba’s anti-piracy efforts tend to focus on large global brands rather than small and medium-sized businesses.
In its rebuttal statement, Alibaba calls the allegations “ridiculous”, “condescending”, and “patently false”, highlighting that the number of brands registered for Alibaba’s IP protection measures, for example, saw an increase of around 11% during the last year alone. In addition, the company had not only met all demands made by the USTR the previous year, but far exceeded them. “In light of all this, it’s clear that no matter how much action we take and progress we make, the USTR is not actually interested in seeing tangible results,” Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said in a statement.
Currently, Alibaba is using information graphics to promote its major successes and the positive results of last year’s anti-piracy campaigns. Among other things, the group is much more proactive against counterfeiting – the number of offers removed by Alibaba on its own initiative increased by a factor of 28 between September 2016 and August 2017. Also, most counterfeit offers (98%) were removed before a fake product was even sold. Additionally, within just one year more than 1,500 reports were, for example, forwarded to law enforcement agencies.