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Alibaba Appoints Former Apple Exec as Head of Anti-Counterfeiting

It looks like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is finally getting serious about the fight against fakes.

Days after it narrowly avoided being blacklisted by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for selling counterfeit goods, the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday appointed Matthew Bassiur as vice president of global intellectual property enforcement, effective in January.

Bassiur, formerly of Pfizer and Apple, will be responsible for leading a team that works with international brands and retailers, industry associations, government regulators and law enforcement, among others, to advance the company’s anti-counterfeiting and IP rights protection efforts.

“Matthew’s appointment is the latest step in Alibaba Group’s comprehensive and industry-leading efforts to fight counterfeits,” Jack Ma, Alibaba’s executive chairman, stated. “Counterfeiting is a problem that challenges all forms of distribution, whether in e-commerce or offline retail. We will continue to be relentless in our long-term commitment to protect both consumers and intellectual property rights owners and we call on all companies in our industry to join our fight against bad actors.”

Alibaba.com and its Taobao marketplace were removed from USTR’s “notorious” blacklist in 2011 and 2012 respectively, under the condition that the websites would improve their anti-piracy practices. But several industry groups, including the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), have voiced their concerns about the company’s slow takedown procedure.

Last week, USTR advised Alibaba to improve its anti-counterfeit efforts and cooperate with the footwear and apparel industry to address ongoing piracy complaints.

Bassiur—who oversaw Pfizer’s anti-counterfeiting efforts and was responsible for investigating frauds and cyber-related crimes at Apple—has a “deep familiarity with China,” Alibaba said.

Prior to joining Apple, he was a federal prosecutor in the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), where he prosecuted large-scale, multi-jurisdictional IP crimes and coordinated domestic and international IP enforcement training and outreach. During his tenure with the DOJ, he also served as the Intellectual Property Liaison to Industry for his section.

Meanwhile, from 1998 to 2006, he specialized in investigations and prosecution of New York’s trademark counterfeiting industry and Asian organized crime.

He will report to Michael Evans, president of Alibaba Group.