Alibaba lobbies to stay off US blacklist list for fake goods

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is lobbying to remain off US Trade Representative's blacklist over counterfeit products sold on the platform.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is lobbying to remain off US Trade Representative's blacklist over counterfeit products sold on the platform.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding is lobbying hard to stay off the United States Trade Representative's (USTR) blacklist after coming under renewed pressure this year over suspected counterfeits sold on its shopping platforms.

Re-inclusion on the USTR's annual list of the world's most"notorious markets" for sales of pirated and counterfeit goods, while not carrying direct penalties, would be a blow to the company's efforts to shed perceptions that its sites are riddled with fakes and that its anti-piracy policies are inadequate. It could also hurt Alibaba's beleaguered share price.

Two Alibaba sites - the business-to-business platform Alibaba.com and the hugely popular Taobao Marketplace - were on the USTR's "Notorious Markets" list from 2008.

Alibaba.com was removed in 2011. Taobao was taken off in 2012 for its "notable efforts" to work with rightholders to clean up the site.

On September 10, the USTR called for public input as it formulates its latest list, expected in the coming months.

At least three industry bodies have publicly responded with criticism of Alibaba, alleging counterfeits remain widespread on its sites and that the company is difficult to work with or inefficient when seeking redress.

The company's new government affairs chief, Eric Pelletier, who took up the post in June, has sent two formal letters to the USTR this month, including a rebuttal of the industry group criticism.

Last week, Pelletier and an Alibaba lawyer met with an inter-agency working group coordinated by the USTR to discuss Alibaba's anti-counterfeit efforts, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

In his letters, Pelletier says Alibaba has gone above and beyond in dealing with the problem, but that primary responsibility for policing and deterring infringements rests with brand owners, according to copies seen by Reuters.

He said the company had made it easier this year for brands to remove listings of suspected fakes while toughening penalties for merchants who violate company policies.

"When you step back and look at our overall efforts to combat illicit activities, our track record is clear. We are certainly not perfect, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us...we will continue to do everything we can to stop these activities," he wrote.