Alibaba, Louis Vuitton, Samsung and others tackle fake goods with big data

Lucy Handley, special to CNBC
A vendor carries counterfeit handbags for sell.
Gabriel Bouys | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has partnered with international brands including Louis Vuitton, Swarovski and Samsung to launch a "Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance" this week.

Alibaba will provide brands that sell products on its website with technology to help them identify and remove fake goods, while companies in the alliance will provide intellectual property (IP) expertise. Alibaba claims to have removed 380 million online listings in the 12 months to August 2016, and closed down 180,000 stores from third-party sellers.

"The most powerful weapon against counterfeiting today is data and analytics, and the only way we can win this war is to unite," said Jessie Zheng, chief platform governance officer of Alibaba Group, in an emailed statement.

"Alibaba welcomes brands and other organizations in the creation of the world's first 'Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance.' With our robust data capabilities, we are confident the alliance will accelerate the digital transformation in our global fight against counterfeits."

Chance Chan | Reuters

Just over 63 percent of the world's seized fake goods originate in China and the United States suffers the largest proportion of IP rights infringements. The value of imported fake goods was $461 billion in 2013 – 2.5 percent of global imports, according to the OECD, which released the figures in April 2016.

Mars and Huawei are also among the 20 brands that have joined the alliance, Alibaba said. Mars brands including Snickers, Maltesers and M&Ms are available on Alibaba.

"We take efforts to eradicate anti-counterfeiting very seriously and are encouraged by the alliance's commitment to use big data and advanced technologies to thwart it," Mars Inc.'s general counsel of marketing properties Scott Thompson said in an emailed statement.

"We look forward to continuing to working with Alibaba and others to break the supply chain of counterfeit goods, and create an environment where counterfeiters can no longer hide," he added.

The body also plans to communicate with consumers.

"The 'Alibaba Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance' will raise awareness of IP enforcement best practices and consumer education, as well as explore new and innovative ways to better protect brands online and offline," the company said in an emailed statement.

One-on-one with Alibaba's Jack Ma

Alibaba has previously identified manufacturing areas such as the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta as fake product hotspots in China. It claims to have helped Chinese law enforcement find 417 counterfeit "nests" in 2016, up from 244 in 2015, according to an article on Alizila, its news website.

Alibaba sued sellers of counterfeit goods for the first time this month, filing a 1.4 million yuan ($204,068) lawsuit against two sellers of fake Swarovski watches on its Taobao platform.

In December 2016, the United States Trade Representative put Taobao on its blacklist of "notorious marketplaces," along with 20 other websites from around the world, including video streaming, gaming and illegal pharmacy sites.

The company has previously admitted to having a problem with fake goods. Founder Jack Ma has said that the fakes are of "better quality, better prices than the real products, the real names," as CNBC reported in July 2016.

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