Hangzhou
09 February 2017
Reporter: Mark Dugdale

Alibaba highlights takedown abuse


Alibaba Group has named and shamed a so-called intellectual property agency that is filing false complaints to badger and blackmail merchants on its ecommerce platforms in a bid to minimise a practice that is drawing resources away from legitimate enforcement actions.

Hangzhou Wangwei Technology has been banned from lodging takedown requests through Alibaba’s takedown platform for all of its ecommerce sites, including Tmall and Taobao.

According to Alibaba’s platform governance team, Hangzhou Wangwei has filed complaints against thousands of merchants across Alibaba platforms and multiple product segments, including women’s apparel, sporting goods, shoes, cosmetics and household appliances.

Hangzhou Wangwei has withdrawn more than 60 percent of its complaints when an appeal was lodged since 2015, a rate well above the norm, according to Alibaba.

Alarmingly, evidence suggests Hangzhou Wangwei may have worked with distributors to lodge takedown requests against their competitors in a bid to shut down their channels or drive their customers elsewhere. Alibaba said it would not tolerate price-fixing on its platforms and added it might pursue legal action if the agency continues to lodge what it deemed “malicious” complaints against legitimate merchants.

Hangzhou Wangwei is far from the only agency engaging in the kind of conduct that Alibaba has alleged.

Last year, 5,862 accounts in Alibaba’s intellectual property protection system were involved in malicious complaints.

Around 1.03 million merchants and more than six million products were the targets of schemes that amounted to a total loss of RMB 107 million for a wide range of victims, including major brand owners such as Nike.

Overall, Alibaba’s platform governance team said malicious complaints accounted for 24 percent of the total number processed, “serving as a drain on the group’s efforts aimed at stamping out counterfeits on its platforms”.

Chen Wenxuan, an Alibaba lawyer, commented: “The purpose of the IP rights system is to protect innovation, yet deliberately abusing the system for malicious or false complaints is unlawful behaviour infringing the principles of integrity and justice and will cripple innovation, acting like sand in the gears.”

Alibaba has long been criticised for not doing enough to fight counterfeiting on its ecommerce platforms. In December, the US Trade Representative returned Taobao to the Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, after a four-year absence.

More trademarks news
The latest news from IPPro The Internet
Join Our Newsletter

Sign up today and never
miss the latest news or an issue again

Subscribe now
Man guilty of trafficking $2.5 million in counterfeits
28 September 2017 | New York | Reporter: Barney Dixon
A New York man confesses to planning the distribution of more than $2.5 million of counterfeit UGG boots
Unitary trademark should be pursued in the EU
20 September 2017 | Prague | Reporter: Theo Andrew
A unitary trademark, similar to proposals for a unitary patent, should be pursued in the EU, according to Gregor Vos, partner at Brinkhof
Kroger and Lidl drop home brands lawsuit
13 September 2017 | Virginia | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Supermarket rivals Lidl and Kroger have agreed to dismiss a trademark infringement lawsuit over home brand logos
Kodi hit by trademark trolls
12 September 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Kodi, the company behind the open source IPTV box software of the same name, has been hit by a multitude of so-called ‘trademark trolls’
BBC Worldwide partners with Incopro
11 September 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
BBC Worldwide has partnered with brand protection specialist Incopro to tackle the unlicensed online sale of counterfeit merchandise
Facebook a counterfeiter’s haven, finds IPO
07 September 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Counterfeiters see social media as a haven, with Facebook representing the most exposed location for communication about counterfeit goods, according to the UK Intellectual Property Office
Google trademark dispute could go to SCOTUS
30 August 2017 | San Diego | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Two members of the public have asked the US Supreme Court to rule on whether ‘Google’ is a generic term that should not be the subject of a trademark