Alibaba’s Taobao online marketplace has filed suit against a pet food seller for RMB 2.67 million ($386,564) in damages and legal fees, alleging that the vendor sold counterfeit cat food through its virtual Taobao store in violation of the e-commerce platform’s rules. In a civil lawsuit filed on March 3 in the Shanghai Fengxian District People’s Court, Taobao claims “the defendant, surnamed Yao, broke several of the trading platform’s regulations prohibiting the sale of trademark-infringing merchandise.”
Taobao asked the court to compel the defendant to compensate it for its total direct and indirect economic losses, loss of goodwill and legal fees. Taobao is also asking the court to order the defendant to publish a written apology in several prominent print and web publications for a week.
The suit is the second civil action lodged by Alibaba this year in its efforts to curb the sale of counterfeit products on its platforms. In early January, Alibaba sued two vendors for selling counterfeit Swarovski watches, seeking RMB 1.4 million ($201,320) for “violation of contract and goodwill.”
The Chinese e-commerce giant has been the subject of widespread scrutiny due to the abundance of counterfeit goods available on its platforms. It has, for instance, consistently been included on the Office of the United States Trade Representative's “Special 301” Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets list (a yearly report details the entities that are most egregiously abusing the intellectual property rights of others around world) and on the receiving end of lawsuits from luxury conglomerates, including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Kering.
The suit comes on the heels of Alibaba calling for "tougher laws, stricter enforcement and stiffer penalties to crack down on purveyors of counterfeit goods in China." In an appeal from the company made public at a press conference at its headquarters in Hangzhou last week, Alibaba said China’s “ambiguous counterfeiting laws” were hampering authorities’ ability to build legal cases against counterfeiters, resulting in a low conviction rate that is “the fundamental reason for the inefficiency in combating counterfeiting and protecting intellectual property.”