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Alibaba Wins IP Award Signaling Improvements in Counterfeit Errs

Alibaba, once criticized for being one of the largest international facilitators for the selling of counterfeit goods, appears to have turned a corner.

Alibaba’s vice president and head of global IP enforcement, Matthew Bassuir, was given the Luxury Law Summit’s “Luxury Law Innovator in IP Rights and Technology” award in London this Tuesday—a marked victory for the e-commerce platform, which has often been accused of a rampant prevalence of counterfeits on its sites.

The annual Luxury Law Summit, now in its seventh year, brings together more than 300 executives from luxury brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel and Prada, along with leaders from luxury organizations like LVMH, Kering and Richemont. According to the group’s website, the event gives attendees the chance to “network and learn with business leaders and leading counsel for the luxury sector,” during a time when the “global rulebook on trading” is going through a state of massive change. The group cites technological innovation along with a shift in the definition of “luxury” as factors impacting the state of “unprecedented instability” in the luxury market.

That instability has also undoubtedly been created by trends in IP theft and counterfeiting. These issues have been a thorn in the side of the luxury industry for years, and are especially prevalent in the digital marketplace. Brands and selling platforms alike have grappled with the issue since the advent of e-commerce, and have begun to do so more deftly over the past few years with the implementation of specialized programs to combat fakes.

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The award comes at an optimal time for the company, which just held its annual Alibaba Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance gathering in Shanghai last week. Launched in 2017, the Alliance brings together 132 brands across 12 industry categories. Prominent members include Louis Vuitton, Honda, Samsung and Mars. This year, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Fossil, and Coach have joined up. According to the company’s website, the alliance was created as “a way for Alibaba to work with brands, using the latest anti-counterfeiting technology to protect IP across its platforms.”

The group’s members work together in six key areas, including “proactive online monitoring and protection, a product test-buy program, offline investigations and enforcement actions, industry-law enforcement workshops, litigation tactics, and public awareness campaigns.”

Alibaba claims that in 2018, the group’s efforts led to the seizure of $536.2 million in counterfeit goods, along with 1,277 suspect arrests. Perhaps most importantly, the group says that 524 manufacturing and distribution locations for fake goods were shuttered permanently.

In his acceptance speech, Bassuir said “through meaningful collaboration and continuous innovation,” Alibaba and its industry counterparts have been able to achieve “great success.” However, he admitted, “there is still much to do. We are all part of the solution and our past accomplishments in IPR protection are just the beginning.”