Tired of seeing copies of Gucci, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta handbags and watches offered through its websites, Kering had already filed a trademark infringement suit against Alibaba last summer, but then retracted it in July, hoping to be able to cooperate with the giant Chinese internet platform. As these efforts apparently failed, Kering decided to file a definitive suit against Alibaba in a New York court a few days ago, claiming that it has been conspiring in the manufacture and offer of counterfeit products bearing its trademarks.
Kering's complaint echoes statements recently made by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and U.S. government authorities, which have attacked in particular Taobao, the consumer-to-consumer platform of Alibaba. Even a Chinese market surveillance institution said in January that only one-third of the products sampled from Taobao were genuine.
Alibaba rejected the claims, stating that it will fight them vigorously, but it appointed a new chief executive, Daniel Zhang, who has been in charge of operations lately. Reportedly, the Chinese internet giant also unveiled a new technology designed to combat fakes through the application of hard-to-copy symbols, similar to QR codes, that brands can put on their products to allow users to determine their authenticity.
The technology has been developed by Visualead, an Israeli start-up in which Alibaba acquired a stake earlier this year. Alibaba is offering the technology to brand partners free of charge.