Brands suing Alibaba: Mediation 'futile'

Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands held by Paris-based Kering SA accuse Alibaba of being a giant conduit for counterfeiters and allege that the e-commerce leader had knowingly made it possible to sell fakes.
Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands held by Paris-based Kering SA accuse Alibaba of being a giant conduit for counterfeiters and allege that the e-commerce leader had knowingly made it possible to sell fakes. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Luxury brands suing Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group have asked a United States judge to be relieved of the obligation to mediate, which they say looks futile after Alibaba founder Jack Ma was quoted in a magazine as saying he would rather lose the case than settle.

Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands held by Paris-based Kering SA filed a suit in New York in May accusing Alibaba of being a giant conduit for counterfeiters and alleging that China's US-listed e-commerce leader had knowingly made it possible to sell fakes.

In an article published late last week, Forbes magazine quoted Mr Ma, Alibaba's executive chairman, as saying there was no chance of settling. "I would lose the case, lose the money... But we would gain our dignity and respect," Mr Ma was quoted as saying.

The plaintiffs were "greatly troubled" by the comment, particularly since Alibaba had requested mediation in the first place, the lead lawyer said in a Nov 6 letter to a judge at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"It leaves the impression... that Alibaba's request for mediation was not made in good faith, but rather as a tactic to delay this case and to force plaintiffs to expend resources spinning their wheels in an expensive and time-consuming mediation," said the letter.

Alibaba spokesman Bob Christie said Mr Ma had made the comments prior to Kering agreeing to Alibaba's proposal to mediate.

Judge Kevin Castle has since urged the parties to continue with mediation, which has yet to begin.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Brands suing Alibaba: Mediation 'futile''. Print Edition | Subscribe