15 January 2018
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Alibaba refutes Notorious Markets report

Alibaba has issued a point by point refutation against allegations levelled at its Taobao platform in the US Trade Representative’s 2017 Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets.

The Notorious Markets report highlighted 25 online markets and 18 physical markets, including Taobao, which it said offered a “high volume of infringing products”.

The ecommerce company had previously claimed that Alibaba had been “turned into a scapegoat by the US Trade Representative to win points in a highly-politicised environment and their actions should be recognised for what they are”.

Among other accusations, the Notorious Markets report said that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using the Taobao platform “continue to have problems accessing and utilising takedown procedures on Taobao”.

“In 2017, more SMEs have requested assistance from US government agencies and embassies regarding Taobao than any other ecommerce platform,” it said.

Alibaba argued that this “proves nothing” and that it is the biggest commerce platform in the world, making it inappropriate to compare platforms by simply counting complaints with no context.

“What about Amazon, eBay and others? The Trade Representative has no basis for comparison, because it does not ask for similar data from US companies,” Alibaba explained.

The ecommerce company said it has engaged in “extraordinary direct outreach” to US SMEs through roadshows and work with the US government, including participation in the US Patent and Trademark Office’s roadshows to “educate SMEs on our IP protection programmes”.

Alibaba also took issue with the assertion from the report that Alibaba had “undertaken efforts, some within the last six months, to curb the offer and sale of infringing products on Taobao”.

It said: “The implication that we have only been focused on this for the last 6 months is ridiculous. Addressing counterfeits has been a top priority of Alibaba for many years, and Alibaba has made steady progress over that time, as evidenced by our Notorious Markets submissions since 2012 (when Taobao was taken off the list).”

Alibaba added: “The Trade Representative completely ignores the work we have done for many, many years … It is condescending for the Trade Representative to assert that Alibaba should continue to do the good work we are doing.”

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