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Alibaba Launches Counterfeit-Fighting Platform in Wake of Controversies

After a difficult 2016 for Alibaba when it comes to its reputation regarding counterfeit goods, the company is once again on a PR offensive to convince brands that it’s making a genuine effort to fight fakes.

During its first Rights Holders Collaboration Summit in Hangzhou on June 30, the Chinese e-commerce giant launched the “Intellectual Property Joint-Force System,” which will give brands the opportunity to confirm intellectual property violations found by Alibaba. Under the new system, participating brands will be assigned to a dedicated online portal with an Alibaba account manager.

The company says the system is open to all brands that have joined Alibaba’s existing “Good Faith Takedown” program that was launched in 2015. This means the program will only be available to brands with an official shop on an Alibaba platform, and Alibaba is clear in its announcement of the program that the brands still need to confirm which products are fake. While the “Good Faith Takedown” program will automatically remove any product a brand reports as fake, the announcement says that “Alibaba, as a third-party marketplace, is unable to authenticate” counterfeit goods “on its own with full certainty.”

So far, only a handful of luxury companies have officially opened shops on Alibaba’s Tmall, including Burberry and Calvin Klein, as well as luxury flash sales site Mei.com. Notably, Louis Vuitton representatives attended the Hangzhou summit along with those from Tmall members Burberry and Apple. Although the French luxury brand does not have an official Tmall shop, it has a cooperation agreement with Alibaba to fight counterfeits. Competitor Kering, meanwhile, has instead opted to sue Alibaba over fakes on its platforms from its brands including Gucci, YSL, and others. Louis Vuitton has also taken legal action regarding fakes, but has opted to go after individual sellers rather than Alibaba itself.

The comments come after a challenging few months for Alibaba regarding its efforts to calm brands’ concerns about counterfeit goods on its platforms. In May 2016, the company was ejected from the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition after luxury brands resigned or threatened to quit in protest of it being admitted as a member only a few weeks before. Then, in June, Jack Ma’s assertion at a conference that “fake” goods on Alibaba platforms have “better quality” than the originals drew criticism from luxury professionals, prompting him to pen a Wall Street Journal op-ed to try to quell the controversy.

With assertions that Alibaba cannot take down items without brands’ confirmation that they’re fake, the new launch appears to be sending the message that brands that work with the company will be rewarded, especially those that are willing to open a Tmall store.

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