After months of pressure from industry groups, the office of the US Trade Representative has included Alibaba's Taobao site on its list of notorious markets.
The notorious markets list –known in full as the Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets - highlights online and physical marketplaces that are linked to substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting, and is updated each year.
The aim is to help helps the US and overseas governments prioritize intellectual property right (IPR) enforcement efforts that protect "job-supporting innovation and creativity in the US and around the world."
In October, a consortium of 18 trade bodies sent a letter to the USTR asking for Taobao and other Alibaba platforms – including AliExpress - back on the black list because of "the enormous number of counterfeits that persist on Alibaba platforms."
One of Taobao and Alibaba's most vocal critics – the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) – welcomed the re-listing of the e-commerce site, saying the move "shines a renewed spotlight on the considerable concerns we and others continue to see on Alibaba platforms."
"In the coming year, we will work with our members, USTR and other government agencies, outside stakeholders, and Alibaba itself to seek sustained improvements that lead to the permanent removal of counterfeits from these online platforms," commented AAFA president and chief executive Rick Helfenbein.
For its part, Alibaba said it was disappointed by the USTR's decision. "We are far more effective and advanced in IPR protection than when the USTR took us off the list four years ago," said the company's president Michael Evans.
"The decision ignores the real work Alibaba has done to protect IP rights holders and assist law enforcement to bring counterfeiters to justice," he added. "The USTR's decision leads us to question whether the USTR acted based on the actual facts or was influenced by the current political climate."