February 20, 2017 Alibaba has started legal proceedings against two online sellers for trademark infringement in China. The sellers were allegedly selling counterfeit Swarovski watches on Taobao, Alibaba’s online Chinese shopping platform. This is the first time that an e-commerce company has taken legal action against counterfeiters in China.
Alibaba used a combination of “mystery shopping” (sending shoppers to purposely purchase suspected counterfeit goods) and data analysis to identify the sellers and then worked with Swarovski to confirm that the watches were indeed fake.
This is a renewed effort by Alibaba to combat the sale of fake goods on its platforms following the decision of the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) last December to once again place Taobao on its notorious markets list. There are no official sanctions for being placed on the list but it does nothing to enhance Alibaba’s reputation.
Jessie Zheng, Alibaba Group’s chief platform governance officer has warned that the company plans to take more online sellers to court in an effort to combat sales of counterfeit goods.
While Alibaba has recognised the need to combat the sale of counterfeit good on their online market places, they have criticised the USTR for singling them out when counterfeit goods are to be found on many other online market places including Amazon. They believe that brand owners should take a unified global approach to the problem.