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.”

A U.S. judge on Thursday dismissed part of a lawsuit filed last year by Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other luxury brands accusing Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd of promoting the sale of counterfeit goods. U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan dismissed racketeering claims asserted by brands owned by Paris-based Kering SA, saying their complaint failed to allege facts that could sustain those claims.

The lawsuit claimed Alibaba and 14 companies selling counterfeit goods on its online marketplaces joined to form an enterprise that sought to profit from items such as a knock-off Gucci handbag that sold for $18.99 rather than $1,250.

Castel ruled the lawsuit failed to allege the existence of such an enterprise under federal racketeering law as it did not establish the merchants were aware of each other or that Alibaba could have agreed to carry out actions with them. “The fraud perpetrated by each merchant defendant could be accomplished without any assistance from any other merchant defendant,” he said.

The ruling did not affect various other trademark-related claims in the lawsuit against Alibaba, which had not at this time sought to dismiss the other parts of the lawsuit.

Alibaba has been dogged for years by allegations that its online shopping sites are riddled with fake or otherwise copyright-infringing goods. The company has said that it is constantly improving its monitoring and enforcement of rules against counterfeits.

*The case is Gucci America Inc et al v. Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-03784.

The front row of Gucci’s 2017 Cruise runway show, which was staged at the Cloisters of Westminster Abbey last month, was filled with celebrities. Kering chairman, François-Henri Pinault, was in attendance with his wife, actress Salma Hayek. Seated nearby was A$AP Rocky, Elle Fanning, Alexa Chung, Georgia May Jagger, and Monaco royal, Charlotte Casiraghi, among others. Also in attendance: 32-year old Li Yuchun, who is better known, in the West, at least, as Chris Lee.

Chris Lee, a Chinese pop singer and actress, who achieved fame when she won the nationwide singing contest, Super Girl, in China in 2005 and subsequently released something like 40 top singles, is one of the newest faces of Gucci. As one of the Florentine house’s brand ambassadors to Asia and the face of Gucci Timepieces and Jewelry, Lee is slated to star in two campaigns – the first of which launches in Asia this month – and attend an array of Gucci-brand events, such as its Cruise 2017 show. She will also be wearing a handful of Gucci costumes designed by creative director Alessandro Michele as part of her wardrobe for her forthcoming 2016 “Growing Wild” tour.

Speaking of her new role, Lee recently said: “I have been captivated by Alessandro Michele’s collections since he became Creative Director, as they are so original and so joyful. I am very excited to be part of this new chapter for Gucci.”

If this all sound somewhat familiar, it is because she had a similar relationship with LVMH-owned brand, Givenchy, until somewhat recently. As one of Givenchy’s ambassadors, Lee fronted the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2015 campaign, wore quite a bit of Givenchy for last year’s Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, and was dressed in no shortage of Givenchy couture stage costumes for her 2013 “Why Me” tour.

While she may not be the height of fame in the West, Lee is certainly a massive selling point in Asia. Tickets for her “Why Me” tour, for instance, sold out instantly. And her concert tickets are not the only thing in very real demand. In Asia, there is something of a Chris Lee effect; namely, almost everything she wears also sells out immediately. To put her level of fame in perspective, she has been said to have a fan base that outnumbers Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez combined, several times over.

According to BoF, Lee’s “success has drawn a significant amount of interest from the commercial world, signing deals with the likes of Coca-Cola and L’Oreal Paris.” She has also appeared in a campaign for Tiffany & Co. – the video advertisement garnered roughly 500,000 views upon its debut on Chinese video site, Youku. The Chinese style also served as a brand ambassador for Italian design house, Versace, some time ago. Her appeal to these brands is not surprising, since the hottest accessory for brands right now is a celebrity with massive selling power. Moreover, her androgynous look has also been a source of appeal for many fashion houses.

As a brand ambassador of sorts for Gucci, Lee has been enlisted to support the design house in a number of capacitates. Aside from the ad campaigns, she is probably contractually obligated to wear a certain amount of Gucci garments to red carpet occasions. She is also in contract to appear at brand events, such as fashion shows, Asia-specific events (like the traveling Gucci Timepieces and Jewelry exhibit, which recently posted up in Xian City, China), and the opening of the any new Gucci Asia stores.

As Chinese demand for luxury goods continues to slow in reaction to the national anticorruption drive, decelerating economic growth and increasingly discerning shoppers, tapping coveted names like Lee to front ad campaigns and appear at Gucci events may be just what the brand needs to weather the storm. 

For many years, a large variety of brands – from Apple and Goldman Sachs to Dior and Hermes – have struggled in their expansion efforts in the Far East as a result of trademark complications. To date, China has been decidedly regarded as a nation where intellectual property infringement is exceptionally widespread. In addition to operating as a haven for both trademark counterfeits and knock-offs, the latter of which refers to garments and accessories that do not infringe another’s intellectual property rights, the Chinese market has also proven problematic as the home of a vast amount of trademark “squatting.” Used interchangeably with the terms “trademark hijacking” or “bad-faith filing,” squatting refers to the “intentional filing a trademark application for a second party’s registered trademark in a country where the second party does not currently hold a trademark registration.”

Squatting is a very widespread tactic utilized by Chinese businesspeople, many of whom file trademark applications, with the singular aim of capitalizing on non-domestic operations seeking entry into China’s thriving retail market, and the fashion industry has not been spared. The practice of bad faith trademark filing has served as a very real problem for fashion brands that are trying to expand East, only to discover that their names and often, numerous variations of their names, have already been registered as trademarks by other entities in China, thereby preventing them from operating businesses in those names. And until relatively recently, brand owners often had few options in terms of fighting such trademark filings in a timely or efficient manner.

There has been good news on the horizon, however, beginning in May 2015 when the Chinese government enacted revisions to its national trademark law. The major changes include: an increase in the level of damages the court may provide for trademark holders whose marks have been infringed (the limited is now $480,000 per infringement, six times more than the prior maximum), procedures to reduce bad faith filing, a quicker turnaround time for trademark applications (the China Trademark Office will complete its examination of an application within nine months), stricter standards against the unauthorized use of “well known” marks, and good news for Christian Louboutin and co., colors may now be trademarked for the first time in China. Moreover, thanks to the newly enacted revisions, brands now have increased access to the Chinese Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, which has the power to invalidate registered trademarks.

Such revisions, especially the ones that address bad faith applications, serve as significant lifelines for designers and design houses, many of which have been subject to extensive trademark infringement schemes. It is exactly these provisions that brands are citing in their motions to fight the Chinese holders of their trademarks.

And in the time since their enactment, the trademark revisions have proven fruitful for brands. Italian fashion company E.C. SpA, which holds rights in the Costume National brand, for instance, has won five lawsuits against two different Chinese companies stemming from their unauthorized use of C’N’C Costume National’s intellectual property. Similarly, confronted with trademark squatting involving its brand name, Michael Bastian, a New York-based men’s fashion brand, successfully disputed the matter before the Chinese Trademark Review and Adjudication Board in Beijing, relying on the newly enacted good-faith provisions. Moncler was successful in its lawsuit against Beijing Nuoyakate Gourmet Co. Ltd., which it filed in the newly established Intellectual Property Court of Beijing in December 2014.

In November, the luxury brand known for its down coats was held to be the rightful owner of the trademarks at issue and granted payment approximately $452,000 in damages in connection with Beijing Nuoyakate Gourmet Co. Ltd.’s sale of counterfeit Moncler goods. And now we can add Ermenegildo Zegna to this list. The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court determined this week that the Guangzhou Fuyin Co., the Chinese company that was holding Zegna’s trademarks in bad faith, must cease infringing the trademarks of the Italian menswear brand and should pay damages of two million yuan, (about $309,000 at current exchange) to the brand.

While it is still strongly recommended that brands file for trademark registration in China as early as possible in order to avoid such squatting scenarios, Chinese courts are proving to be far more sympathetic to brands as a result of the trademark law amendments.

On the heels of Kering filing a second lawsuit against Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant, said there is absolutely no chance of a settlement between his company and the French luxury conglomerate, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen, among other high fashion brands.

You may recall that in May, a group of Kering-owned houses came together to file suit against Alibaba, contending that the Chinese online shopping giant knowingly made it possible for counterfeiters to sell their products throughout the world. In their complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands owned by Paris-based conglomerate, Kering SA, allege that Alibaba conspired to manufacture, offer for sale and traffic in counterfeit products bearing their trademarks without their permission.

This lawsuit comes on the heels of an August 2014 settlement between Kering and Alibaba after Kering withdrew a nearly identical lawsuit last year. According to the terms of their settlement, Alibaba would cooperate with Kering to stem the sale of fake products. Well, apparently Alibaba, which holds the title of the biggest initial public offering in the world, thanks to its $25 billion listing on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014, was not holding up its end of the deal. And Kering sued again.

Ma spoke out recently about the potential of settling the second case out of court (AGAIN), saying: “I would [rather] lose the case, lose the money, but we would gain our dignity and respect. We are the military fighting against the counterfeit terrorists. [The brands] have to work together with us instead of killing the soldiers.” Additionally, Ma said in a statement that upholding intellectual property rights is not simply a “white and black” issue, stressing that his company needs to care about the rights of all people involved, both the branded businesses and the online sellers.

Alibaba issued a statement in May, noting: “We continue to work in partnership with numerous brands to help them protect their intellectual property, and we have a strong track record of doing so. Unfortunately, Kering has chosen the path of wasteful litigation instead of the path of constructive cooperation.”