Hangzhou
07 March 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Alibaba’s Jack Ma lends voice to calls for heavier penalties


Alibaba Group founder and chair Jack Ma has called for Chinese legislators to apply the same level of effort to increasing criminal penalties for counterfeiters as they did when cracking down on drunk driving.

Last month, Alibaba claimed in a public appeal that China’s “ambiguous counterfeiting laws” are stopping authorities from building strong legal cases against counterfeiters, resulting in a low conviction rate.

In a post on social media platform Weibo, Ma equated the problem to that of drunk driving in China, arguing: “If the debates and controversies had never happened around drunk driving, society would not have agreed on the proper legal penalties. Without such strict law enforcement, we would surely see many more traffic accidents.“

“On the contrary, the majority of counterfeiters are not held legally responsible for their actions,” he added.

“We need to fight counterfeits the same way we fight drunk driving. For example, if the penalty for even one fake product manufactured or sold was a seven-day prison sentence, the world would look very different, both in terms of intellectual property enforcement and food and drug safety, as well as our ability to foster innovation.”

Ma argued that these sorts of penalties would help create a healthy environment for innovation, like they have in the US, where first offenders can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

He said: “Under China’s laws, counterfeit manufacturers and sellers do not have to bear any criminal responsibility for counterfeit goods worth less than RMB 50,000 ($7,248).”

“The maximum penalty for anything above that amount is seven years. This is a 20-year-old law and a 10-year-old judicial interpretation, severely out-of-date from reality, resulting in 99 percent of counterfeit activities bearing no consequences at all.”

Alibaba is “fighting on the front line of the anti-counterfeiting war” and, despite challenges, will “keep pushing forward”, according to Ma. “However, the anti-counterfeiting war is impossible for any, single company to fight alone.”

“Modifying and improving the law is a serious matter, but it is also a lengthy and complicated process. We will continue to fight and call for a counterfeit-free world for our children and ourselves.”

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