Countering the Alibaba effect


Jan Maarten Laurijssen

Countering the Alibaba effect

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Alibaba Group platforms are often at the top of the list of brand-infringing e-commerce websites, says Jan Maarten Laurijssen of Pointer Brand Protection. Here are some tips for how brands can stay safe and detect infringements.

With key platforms such as, and, Alibaba Group is one of the largest e-commerce websites in the world. Ranging from the newest designer handbags to the most advanced computer chips, millions of products are offered for sale on this platform every day. 

Although the majority of these products are perfectly fine, brand owners are now seeing the downside of such platforms. In fact, for many brands which proactively monitor the occurrence of online brand infringements, the Alibaba Group platforms are often at the top of their lists.

This is due to Alibaba’s popularity and the volume at which infringed goods are offered for sale on the platforms.

Without any prior knowledge on the matter, getting infringements removed from these platforms can be quite challenging. Read on to learn more about Alibaba and how to protect your brand.

Alibaba was founded in 1998 by a team of 18 individuals led by English teacher Jack Ma. Seventeen years later, Alibaba became China’s biggest e-commerce company. After going public in September 2014, it was deemed the third largest online company in the world.

This achievement placed more pressure on Alibaba to help owners protect their brands online by acting on intellectual property infringements.

The platforms Tmall and Taobao dominate the Chinese market, as seen in Table 1 below. In addition, internationally-focused platforms, such as Alibaba and AliExpress, are rapidly taking over market share from other big players, including eBay, Amazon and MercadoLibre.

AliExpress is one platform to pay close attention to. The site is available in 90 different languages and has dedicated platforms to accommodate the Russian, Brazilian and Spanish markets. Market share in these countries is significant, Aliexpress being the second most popular e-commerce site available.

Table 1: Alibaba Group-owned platforms







Target group






Main market






Global Alexa rating






Reporting mechanism






Source: Pointer Brand Protection

Similar to other marketplaces, Alibaba Group has a reporting tool that allows brand owners to submit and report infringing listings. Although convincing Alibaba’s review team to remove infringements may be challenging, the report dashboard is fairly easy to use.

IP infringements on Alibaba, AliExpress, and can be reported through the AliProtect module.

After presenting documents proving IP rights, links can be submitted using the online form provided. Non-Chinese trademark certificates are accepted as proof for Alibaba and AliExpress. For 1688 only Chinese trademark certificates are accepted. All submitted links are handled within two of four working days. The dashboard is available in both Chinese and English, and there is easy access to documentation.

“For Taobao and Tmall, the TaoProtect reporting tool may be used. This dashboard is more complex and currently only available in Chinese.” 

If you encounter any issues, communication with the review team can be achieved by email or by using the online chat programme, AliWangwang.

For Taobao and Tmall, the Qinquan and TaoProtect reporting tool may be used. This dashboard is more complex and currently only available in Chinese.

To successfully report IP infringements, you will need to include Chinese trademark registrations and provide copies of the official certificates. These certificates must be issued by the Chinese Trademark Office (CTMO) and need to be valid in the correct (sub)classes. World Intellectual Property Organization trademark certificates will not be accepted as proof. Each individual listing is reviewed by a team member of Alibaba and will be handled within four to seven working days.

There is a strict due diligence process in place before sellers are permitted to sell on the platform. Sellers must provide a business licence, along with a photo holding his or her ID card. All candidates must register with Alipay. For some platforms, a deposit may be needed. 

If a seller receives a complaint regarding his or her offer, the protest will hinder his or her store ratings; this may eventually lead to closure of the store and loss of the deposit. Because of this, sellers are quite keen on getting their complaints removed, and they will try everything in their power to convince you to do so.

“Very often we receive phone calls and distressed emails from Alibaba users,” Jan Maarten Laurijssen from Pointer Brand Protection explains.

“We hear all kind of excuses and promises. In many occasions infringers try to deceive the Alibaba group review team by providing in falsified invoices and contract. Our policy is not to revoke any complaints because it will affect our strategy and the enforcement accuracy score.”

Good faith policy

You can imagine the workload that comes with hundreds of brand owners reporting infringements on a daily basis. Besides the pressure from brand owners and local authorities to act against brand infringements, this is probably one of the reasons for Alibaba’s introduction of the ‘good faith policy’ in April 2015. You are able to apply for this programme when your enforcement history contains several complaints with 100-plus links.

Brand owners reporting without any mistakes can apply for the good faith policy. When accepted, future complaints will be reviewed with less intensity, and listings will be removed much faster.

How do I apply for the good faith policy?

A score is calculated based on the accuracy of submitted listings and successful counter complaints. To pass the system there is a minimum of 10 complaints and 1,000 links submitted; 90% of the submitted listings need to be passed successfully.

When sellers submit a counter complaint the acceptance rate should be lower than 1.5%. The score, which is recalculated every month, can be found on your account. If you qualify, you will be asked to sign a few agreements.

Future complaints will be handled with haste and without complete review by the Alibaba team. You will get a dedicated contact person who will provide you with support if needed so things will run smoothly.

Tips for protecting your brands on Alibaba platforms

-          Communicate in the Chinese language

-          Use the chat programme

-          Get all the correct trademark certificates from the CTMO

-          Report accurately and apply for the good faith policy

-          Meet in person

-          Use monitoring software to detect and report infringements

Asked to respond to its brand protection record, an Alibaba Group spokesperson said: “Alibaba Group is dedicated to the fight against counterfeits because the health and integrity of our marketplaces depend on consumer trust.

“We have a broad range of measures to prevent counterfeit and pirated goods from being offered and sold on our marketplaces.”

Jan Maarten Laurijssen is a managing partner at Pointer Brand Protection. He can be contacted at: 

Alibaba; branding; Tmall; Taobao; infringement;

Trademarks and Brands Online