U.S. businesses are familiar with Amazon, but not many know about Alibaba, which is an e-commerce marketplace platform based in China. Businesses love that Amazon provides a vast retail marketplace for its products, but at the same time, dread violation of its intellectual property rights in the marketplace. U.S. businesses should be similarly wary of violations of their intellectual property rights on the Alibaba e-commerce marketplace and take action as necessary.
WHAT IS ALIBABA?
Alibaba is China’s (and one of the world’s) biggest e-commerce company. Alibaba Group is a China based company specializing in e-commerce. It operates many web portals for sales between consumer-to-consumer (C2C), business-to-consumer (B2C), and business-to-business (B2B), some of which are listed below:
AliExpress.com – B2C
1688.com -B2B (within China)
Taobao.com – C2C (within China)
Tmall.com – B2C (within China)
For U.S. businesses, the most relevant of the above websites, and the subject of this article, is Alibaba.com, an international e-commerce marketplace wholesaling products to companies throughout the world, including the U.S. Chinese businesses can list their products on Alibaba.com and promote and sell their products in large quantities for shipping anywhere in the world. The buyer in turn sells the products at the retail level.
WHY WORRY ABOUT ALIBABA?
Similar to Amazon, Alibaba offers many products in its marketplace. Some of these products may infringe U.S. intellectual property rights, and some may be counterfeit products. Although Alibaba is based in China, two of its portals sell products worldwide, including to the U.S. Even if products are sold in China and shipped outside the U.S., such products may (and often) end up in the U.S. To some extent, infringing products sold on Alibaba.com can be more damaging to a U.S. business than on Amazon.com because they are sold in wholesale (rather than retail) quantities.
Unfortunately, Alibaba does not take sufficient measures to prevent listings that infringe on third party intellectual property rights. It is up to the intellectual property rights holders to bring infringing listings to Alibaba’s attention to have them removed.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Just as established U.S. businesses do on the Amazon marketplace, one should similarly routinely monitor the Alibaba marketplace for listings that infringe patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Since Alibaba.com and Aliexpress.com are international e-commerce portals, U.S. intellectual property rights are accepted to support take-down requests of infringing or counterfeit listings. On the other hand, the Chinese domestic portals only accept China intellectual property rights.
HOW TO SUBMIT A COMPLAINT WITH ALIBABA
Similar to Amazon and other e-commerce marketplaces, Alibaba Group has a robust takedown mechanism called Intellectual Property Protection Platform (“IPP Platform”)1. The IPP Platform allows intellectual property rights holders to submit and track infringement cases across all of Alibaba Group’s portals. The intellectual property rights holder (or its authorized representatives) must first set up an account on the IPP Platform, and then upload intellectual property rights for Alibaba’s verification. The IPP Platform accepts intellectual property rights (such as patent, design patent, trademark, and copyright) from U.S., China, and elsewhere. Once the intellectual property rights have been verified, requests to take down specific listings can be initiated. If Alibaba agrees with the intellectual rights holders and removes a listing, the seller may submit a counter-notice with documentary evidence, which is available for the intellectual property rights holders to review. Alibaba will review all submissions from both parties and determine whether to reinstate the listing.
When submitting a takedown request on the IPP Platform, best practice is to include supplemental information or evidence clearly identifying the infringement. For patent infringement, a detailed analysis report comparing the patent to the infringing product is required.
Routinely monitoring and submitting intellectual property rights takedown requests with Alibaba is just as important for a U.S. business as routine monitoring of Amazon.com. A successful takedown request with Alibaba can effectively eliminate the only outlet the source of the infringing product has on an e-commerce marketplace.
You can reach out to the author for assistance with submitting intellectual property rights takedown requests on the Alibaba platform.