Alibaba Group said Monday that it is forming a 20-member alliance of companies to fight the sale of counterfeit products. The e-commerce giant said Louis Vuitton, Samsung, Swarovski, Mars and Huawei are members of the new group, dubbed the “Alibaba Big Data Anticounterfeiting Alliance.”
Alibaba, which has been criticized for the prevalence of fake products on its platforms, said the new group will “foster industry collaboration and promote the use of big data and technology in the global fight against counterfeits.” The Chinese company’s new connection with Louis Vuitton is particularly noteworthy given Alibaba’s past track record with luxury goods companies. Gucci parent Kering has sued Alibaba over the sale of fake goods. In December, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office relisted Alibaba‘s Taobao e-commerce site on its “Notorious Markets” list for 2016, bowing to pressure from the The American Apparel & Footwear Association and 17 other organizations.
News of the alliance comes just a week after Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma made headlines for his visit with President-elect Donald Trump. Trump happened to meet with Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the same day.
Alibaba, which recently revealed that it is taking legal action against merchants selling fake Swarovski watches on its Taobao platform, said its new alliance has received support from government bodies and law enforcement agencies in China. The Chinese company said the alliance will have 20 members initially. Although an Alibaba spokeswoman declined to release the entire roster of members, she said they include Shiseido, Trendy Group, Bioderma, Amway, Pernod Ricard, Canon and Ford.
“The most powerful weapon against counterfeiting today is data and analytics, and the only way we can win this war is to unite,” said Jessie Zheng, chief platform governance officer of Alibaba Group. “Alibaba welcomes brands and other organizations in the creation of the world’s first Big Data Anticounterfeiting Alliance. With our robust data capabilities, we are confident the alliance will accelerate the digital transformation in our global fight against counterfeits.”
Alibaba said the alliance “aims to pool resources and increase collaboration to promote a safe and healthy global e-commerce ecosystem where brands are protected from IP pirates.”
Alibaba said it will provide alliance members with big data and advanced technological support to protect intellectual property and take down “infringing listings.” In exchange, the other members of the alliance will share their IP authentication know-how and anticounterfeiting data with Alibaba.
“This data integration will enable Alibaba to provide leads to brands and law enforcement agencies for off-line investigations and prosecutions,” Alibaba said.
An Alibaba spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the press release as of press time. But the e-commerce giant has been vocal about its efforts to fight the sale of fake products on its platforms. Last year, it touted its “Operation Cloud Sword” initiative, which saw the arrest of 332 suspects. Alibaba said the investigation and subsequent crackdown shut down 417 production rackets and seized fake goods valued at 1.43 billion renminbi, or almost $208 million.
Earlier this month, Alibaba said it’s pursuing legal action against two merchants for allegedly selling counterfeit Swarovski watches on its Taobao platform and said it plans to file other lawsuits against counterfeiters — but some China-based intellectual property experts questioned whether that strategy is effective or even practical.
“Given that there are millions of such infringing instances, how could such a strategy be really sustainable and effective and which cases would be meritorious of protection?” asked Paolo Beconcini, senior global intellectual property consultant at Squire Patton Boggs.