Alibaba pushed to block phonies

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

De­spite e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba’s prom­ise to crack­down on coun­ter­feits, trade groups are still say­ing the com­pany isn’t do­ing enough to mon­i­tor and pull fake goods from its e-com­merce plat­forms.

Let­ter to Alibaba from group of 10 ap­parel and ac­ces­sories trade groups

In a let­ter dated Aug 23, a group of 10 ap­parel and ac­ces­sories trade groups said that the Hangzhou-based Alibaba has yet to make good on its word and rid their var­i­ous web­sites of the phony brand-name goods.

“Trust can­not be hostage to de­lay and this trust is tested when, for ex­am­ple, over a year ago Alibaba com­mit­ted to op­ti­mize its al­go­rithm to de­tect ‘blurred im­ages’ where the of­fer is for a prod­uct with the logo hid­den. Us­ing such im­ages is now a breach of your terms, but no soft­ware is in place to proac­tively spot this,” said the group, which in­cludes the Union des Fabri­cants, the Asian Coali­tion Against Coun­ter­feit­ing and Piracy and the Fed­er­a­tion of the Swiss Watch In­dus­try.

In a state­ment e-mailed to China Daily, Alibaba Group said that it wel­comed the let­ter.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate its con­struc­tive tone and look for­ward to work­ing closely with the brands rep­re­sented by the trade groups, many of whom have al­ready built suc­cess­ful on­line busi­nesses on Alibaba plat­forms,” it said.

The Amer­i­can Ap­parel & Footwear As­so­ci­a­tion, though not a sig­na­tory on the Au­gust let­ter, told China Daily that it too has com­mu­ni­cated with Alibaba sev­eral times to ad­dress the is­sue of not hav­ing clearer take-down pro­ce­dures and that the site is still flooded with coun­ter­feits.

“We file a num­ber of com­ments ev­ery year with the US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive out­lin­ing our con­cerns about the web­site it­self — on any given day, any given mo­ment you look at it, thou­sands and thou­sands of coun­ter­feits of our mem­bers’ brands,” said Stephen Lamar, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of the AAFA. “That’s abat­ing, that’s con­tin­u­ing and in many cases it’s con­tin­u­ing.”

The US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive (USTR) of­fice, which is re­spon­si­ble for rec­om­mend­ing US trade pol­icy and con­duct trade ne­go­ti­a­tions, has re­quested pub­lic com­ment on whether or not to add Alibaba to its an­nual “no­to­ri­ous mar­kets” list.

The list, pub­lished at the end of the year, high­lights mar­kets and plat­forms that, they say, en­gage in copy­right piracy and trade­mark in­fringe­ment.

Alibaba missed be­ing put on the list last year, but the USTR said it is “in­creas­ingly con­cerned” about the com­pany’s ef­forts to re­move fake goods from its web­sites, say­ing that Alibaba’s en­force­ment pro­gram is “too slow, dif­fi­cult to use and lacks trans­parency”.

“The ul­ti­mate end re­sult is that the sit­u­a­tion we’re try­ing to fix is not im­prov­ing. We look at the tools be­ing of­fered to fix it and they’re in­suf­fi­cient. The take­down pro­ce­dures that Alibaba has ar­tic­u­lated and have made avail­able to com­pa­nies are dif­fi­cult to use,” said Lamar, cit­ing ig­nored re­quests for take-downs or take-down re­quests be­ing re­jected for in­valid rea­sons.

“Even if you’re suc­cess­ful in nav­i­gat­ing through all of this, and get­ting a take-down ex­e­cuted, the prod­ucts pop back up again,” he added.

AAFA has asked Alibaba to make it eas­ier for brands to get cer­ti­fied and to ini­ti­ate take­downs, al­low brands to ap­prove sales and en­act a trans­par­ent ver­i­fi­ca­tion process.

The as­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sents about 1,000 brands. It does not track how many of them sell on their wares on Alibaba plat­forms.

Alibaba made head­lines ear­lier this year with back­lash over the com­pany’s coun­ter­feit polic­ing ef­forts. Founder Jack Ma told an in­vestor con­fer­ence that fake goods were hard to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from the real ones be­cause they are of­ten made in the same fac­to­ries.

Crit­ics re­acted im­me­di­ately, say­ing that Ma was try­ing to pass the blame to sell­ers of fakes. Ma sub­se­quently re­sponded in an op-ed in the Wall Street Jour­nal de­fend­ing his re­marks.

Ear­lier, Alibaba had been ad­mit­ted as a mem­ber of the International Anti-Con­ter­feit­ing Coali­tion un­der a newly cre­ated cat­e­gory, and Ma was sched­uled to speak at an IACC con­fer­ence.

The coali­tion re­ceived such a swift back­lash from many of the lux­ury brands it rep­re­sents that it sus­pended the new cat­e­gory and can­celled Ma’s ap­pear­ance at the con­fer­ence.

Trust can­not be hostage to de­lay and this trust is tested.”

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