America’s largest apparel trade group is asking the U.S. government to add Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba as a Notorious Market, an annual designation applied to websites and markets with large-scale copyright infringement. The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) sent a formal letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to put Alibaba and constituent platforms, such as Taobao, back onto the Notorious Market list. The USTR had taken Alibaba off the list in 2012.
“Despite numerous public statements that the company is taking the counterfeit problem seriously, we have yet to see improvements on Alibaba’s platforms,” AAFA President and CEO Rick Helfenbein said. “USTR removed Alibaba from its list several years ago, on the condition that the company meet specific requirements going forward. Those requirements have not been met, and as a result American consumers and our members are paying the price.”
The AAFA referenced research by a Chinese government agency that showed that as much as 67% of the goods sold on Taobao were counterfeit.
Alibaba sent its own letter to the USTR, noting that it had taken down 380 million product listings and closed about 180,000 TaoBao stores in the 12 months leading up to August. It said it has also closed about 675 production, storage or sales operations of counterfeit products. “At Alibaba, counterfeit goods are absolutely unacceptable,” the company wrote in its letter to the USTR. “We do not tolerate or condone those who steal other people’s intellectual property.”
In July, Alibaba unveiled the Intellectual Property (IP) Joint-Force System as a way to remove imitation products from its e-commerce site. The company also reported its largest earnings to date the following month, with revenue for the quarter ended June 30 reaching $4.84 billion, up 59% from 2015. The company continues to expand its footprint, including an announcement on Sunday, October 9 that Alibaba Pictures Group had acquired a minority equity stake in Steven Spielberg’s movie production company Amblin Partners. Alibaba will also have the option to co-finance Amblin movies and will handle the marketing, distribution and merchandising of Amblin movies in China.