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Alibaba ramps up fight against counterfeiters

Alibaba is tightening the rules for traders selling luxury goods on its popular online platform Taobao.

It’s one of several measures in the ramping up of the Alibaba fake fight, which is being conducted in conjunction with Washington, DC-based International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC).

From May 20, vendors selling luxury products on Taobao will have to upload an invoice or authorisation letter from the luxury brands, for examination by Taobao, as proof it has the rights to sell the products. Otherwise the goods will be removed from the website and Alibaba says payments received for such goods can be frozen.

“To create a healthy shopping environment with a high level of integrity and to protect the legal interests of consumers and brand owners, Taobao is gearing up to regulate sales of luxury brands’ products,” the company said in a letter to traders on May 4.

The letter coincides with reports that Chinese government agencies plan to clean up the e-commerce market, targeting counterfeit goods and trademark violations. A campaign will run from May through November with stiff penalties for offenders caught.

Meanwhile, the IACC MarketSafe Program, an initiative started in 2013, is being opened up so that more brands and companies can participate. The MarketSafe program provides companies with an expedited process for working with Alibaba to target and take down online listings for counterfeit goods, reports Alibaba news site Alizila.

Set to debut later this year, the expanded MarketSafe program will be free of charge to IACC members and non-members, according to Alibaba and the IACC. In addition, brands will no longer be required to provide evidence to support intellectual-property infringement complaints. The changes “will enable a greater number and diversity of rights holders to benefit from a fair, simple, and effective IP enforcement platform,” Alibaba said in a statement.

Accused by some Western companies of not doing enough to keep listings for counterfeit products off its shopping websites, Alibaba has been trying to enlist greater industry support, arguing the problem is too pervasive and complex for any single company to fight on its own. The Chinese eCommerce giant has for several years been working with the IACC, which has members from a wide range of industries and includes brands such as Burberry, 21st Century Fox and Apple.

Alibaba last month became the first e-commerce company to join the IACC as an official member. Its admission to membership prompted the walkout of Michael Kors and Kering-owned Gucci.

IACC president, Bob Barchiesi, said the expansion of the MarketSafe program is the result of “significant contribution and commitment from both parties.”

“Collaboration across industries is key to addressing the issue of counterfeiting at a broader level, and this is one of the first steps towards the IACC’s goal of creating a holistic model for tackling online counterfeiting around the world,” Barchiesi said.

Since the MarketSafe program’s launch, nearly 5000 sellers’ storefronts have been closed and banned from Alibaba’s marketplaces, and more than 180,000 infringing product listings have been removed, even through a “limited number” of brands have been participating, according to Alibaba.

“This program exemplifies the tangible and mutual success that can be achieved when brands, trade associations, governments and intermediaries work together to combat counterfeiting,” said Matthew Bassiur, VP and head of global IP enforcement at Alibaba Group, in a statement.

“Alibaba and the IACC, together with the rest of industry, have a shared interest in building a safe and trusted internet environment and marketplace for consumers, rights holders, and sellers,” he added.

This story first appeared on sister site, Inside Retail Asia. Additional reporting from Alizila.

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