Alibaba on Tuesday announced the formal launch of its Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance, an initiative to foster industry collaboration and promote the use of analytics and technology in the global fight against counterfeiters.
The Chinese e-commerce juggernaut pledged late last month to establish this kind of "Intellectual Property Advisory Board" a day after United States Trade Representative Michael Froman added Alibaba's Taobao marketplace back to its list of Notorious Markets for 2016 — a move which several brands and trade associations lobbied for.
In an email to Retail Dive, Alibaba said it has “received strong support from brands, trade associations, intellectual property experts, and regulators.” Initially the alliance will have 20 members including Louis Vuitton, Samsung, Swarovski, Mars and Huawei, in addition to support from government bodies and law enforcement agencies in China.
Alibaba's move to officially launch its anti-counterfeit effort with brands comes just days after announcing a lawsuit against two watch sellers on its Taobao marketplace, alleging sales of fake Swarovski watches and claiming RMB 1.4 million (about $2 million U.S.) in damages for “contract and goodwill violations.”
That’s the first legal action taken by Alibaba to combat fake merchandise sold across its platform, and last week the company vowed to take additional steps, saying it has “already compiled a list of counterfeiters against whom it will take similar actions.” Data analytics helped Alibaba in that case, it said then, and reiterated the importance of data in announcing the cooperative action with brands.
“The most powerful weapon against counterfeiting today is data and analytics, and the only way we can win this war is to unite,” Jessie Zheng, Alibaba Group Chief Platform Governance Officer, said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive.
Alibaba will provide Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance members with advanced technological support in their IP enforcement work, including tools to block, screen and remove infringing listings. There are more than a billion product listings across Alibaba’s platforms at any given time, the company said, and its system scans more than 10 million product listings per day; Alibaba added that in the 12 months ending August 2016, it removed more than 380 million product listings and closed down 180,000 third-party seller stores.
Brands joining the Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance may have nothing to lose, but it’s not clear whether there's widespread support for Alibaba’s self-policing efforts. Last August, several international trade groups sent a joint letter to Alibaba complaining that it was not doing enough to curb the volume of counterfeits products appearing on its platforms and later lobbied the USTR to return Alibaba to the Notorious Markets List.