Negative lists focus online – and still omit social media

© bernardbodo/
The US government’s new Notorious Markets List keeps its focus on illegal online trade – but refrains from including some well-known social networks, which was often requested. Similarly, the corresponding list from the EU continues to omit them too.

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has now released its new Notorious Markets List, which highlights physical markets and online marketplaces that allegedly engage in or facilitate significant levels of trademark infringements and/or copyright piracy. According to USTR, the focus of the current edition is particularly on online platforms.

Accordingly, the list, which largely corresponds to last year’s Notorious Markets List, again includes some major online marketplaces, especially from China. This includes e‑commerce platforms such as Pinduoduo as well as AliExpress and Taobao, both from the Alibaba Group. In addition, Chinese provider Tencent’s services WeChat, the well-known chat service and social network from China, and its sister service Weixin are also listed. However, the USTR did not include any sites from the American online giant Meta in its negative list, although their social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp had been suggested for this list. What is more, the USTR also refrained from listing any US based online platforms.

The inclusion of Meta’s enormously widespread social media pages had been repeatedly requested, among others by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). In a recent statement, the association nevertheless expresses its gratitude that the Notorious Markets List takes up comments by the association, and also welcomes the recently passed INFORM Consumers Act. AAFA President and CEO Steve Lamar also stated that “we must do all that we can to stop counterfeits globally, including those promoted and sold on platforms based in the United States.”

The USTR report, in contrast, focuses only on those social networks that have their own built-in e‑commerce functionalities – so-called social commerce platforms. With such sites, according to USTR, there is not only a threat that counterfeits are purchased unwittingly. Such social commerce sites might also be used to sell goods that are openly known to be counterfeit. Next to that, the USTR report also highlights the impact of so-called dupe influencers. At the same time, however, the USTR also notes that many e‑commerce and social commerce platforms have taken further steps to combat counterfeiting.

Late last year, the European Union has also published its negative list, the third edition of the bloc’s Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List. Similar to the USTR, the EU Commission also scrutinizes online platforms and marketplaces, but weighs their intent and commitment to actively combat counterfeiting somewhat more strongly. Accordingly, the EU also lists websites that have taken steps against counterfeiting but are still being monitored – this includes, for example, Shopee from Southeast Asia and DHgate from China. Also, three platforms that were previously included have now been removed from the watch list. Among others, this includes the Latin American e‑commerce giant Mercado Libre, which had set up its brand protection portal in the meantime.

Just like it is the case with the USTR list, the company Meta and especially its platform Facebook were nominated by several stakeholders for the EU Commission’s negative list but are not included. The Commission argues that the commitment to combating counterfeiting is higher on these platforms than on other marketplaces that were listed.

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