The counterfeit case against Alibaba is becoming a courtroom drama as the judge has suggested it was a good thing that the attorneys weren’t trying to mediate a war.
Last week, the counsel for Gucci and other luxury brands that are part of Kering asked Manhattan Federal Court Judge Kevin Castel to be relieved from mediating the case against Alibaba. Attorney Robert Weigel pointed out that executive chairman of Alibaba Jack Ma told Forbes that he would prefer to lose the case and pay the penalties and in doing so would gain his dignity and respect.
Counsel felt that significant resources had been devoted to participating in the mediation and that the mediation followed a year’s worth of unproductive discussions. The luxury brands feel that is there is no chance the case will be settled and so mediation appeared to be a futile exercise.
Instead, Castel strongly recommended that the parties proceed to mediation. He assumed that Alibaba’s silence to the request to withdraw from the process meant the Chinese Internet giant preferred to stay with mediation. In his letter he said that “needless public comments can undermine talks.”
Then in a bit of scolding Castel wrote, “It is fortunate that the parties’ representatives — both sides — have not served in high-level diplomatic positions in key moments in history or many successful resolutions of disputed matters, including shooting wars, would never have been achieved.”
Alibaba stepped up and said it preferred to continue mediating. But the company couldn’t resist getting in a few shots and complained that the initial complaint was timed to coincide with Alibaba’s initial public offering. The firm also said that the comments by Ma were from an article that was highly slanted and factually dubious.
The counsel for Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent and Kering filed another letter on Wednesday saying the French group would proceed in good faith to mediation. They continue to believe that the case is being stalled so that Alibaba can keep selling counterfeit products on its platforms.