In the fight to eradicate knock-off designer handbags and accessories, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) just got more weight in its corner.
Influential industry organizations, such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), along with a total of 17 others across varying industries from automotive to airlines, have once again called upon the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to list e-commerce behemoth Alibaba on its annual notorious markets list.
Defined by Wikipedia, notorious markets is “a term used in the United States to describe websites and physical markets where large-scale copyright infringement takes place.” Alibaba was once named on the USTR list but was removed in 2012 after its report found that its Taobao Marketplace “has worked with rights holders to significantly decrease the listing of infringing products for sale through its website, and has committed to continue working to streamline its complaint procedures to further reduce listings of counterfeit products.” Taobao is the online auction section of Alibaba where most of the designer knock-offs are bought and sold.
Alibaba’s removal did not, however, solve any problems. Since 2012, there has been much back and forth between AAFA, the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition and even designers like Michael Kors speaking up and demanding harsher repercussions. Earlier in the year, Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma made some controversial comments that came across as sounding pro-counterfeit and further fueled the fashion flames.
AAFA and other organizations have since doubled-down, sending several letters over the last few months claiming that Alibaba has not accomplished what was requested in the 2015 Notorious Markets report. Their top charges include simplifying Taobao’s process for rights holders to register and request enforcement action, making Taobao’s good faith procedures generally available, and to reduce Taobao’s timelines for takedowns and issue penalties for counterfeit sellers.
“We take counterfeits very seriously because of the damage it causes our member companies, international workers, and U.S. consumers. To date, Alibaba has not fixed this problem,” said Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “Every day we read about Alibaba’s continued global expansion. While this is great for their shareholders, we are deeply concerned that they have not been as proactive on counterfeits as they could have been. They have not taken all the necessary steps to prevent, significantly reduce, or totally eliminate the issues that have been raised.”
For a full list of organizations who signed the letter to USTR, click here.