Alibaba sued amid claims of fake fire-dousing balls

Alibaba is in the firing line once again, this time for allowing counterfeits of a fire-extinguishing product on its websites.

Thailand-based company Elide Fire Ball Pro has been selling its eponymous product – a ball-like device that can be thrown at a fire and bursts, covering the flames with dousing material – since 1998. The manufacturer claims now claims Alibaba and its AliExpress site carried listings for a knock-off copy of its product under the AFO brand – and it is seeking $86m in reparations.

Elide says that it is suffering direct harm from the counterfeit in terms of lost sales, but is also concerned that the copies fail to extinguish fires. That damages its reputation, as well as potentially putting the lives of consumers at risk, it asserts.

At the time of writing there were AFO fire balls listed on Alibaba, as well as similar products sold under different brands, some indicating they were manufactured in China and others made in Turkey.

A spokesman for Alibaba told CNET that it had not been served with the complaint and so would not comment further on the matter, but insisted it takes "reports of alleged intellectual property violations seriously" and takes "action against sellers which engage in activities that violate its terms of use and intellectual property rights protection policy."

The lawsuit is the latest in a series filed against the Chinese e-commerce giant over counterfeiting, although it has launched its own legal assaults against vendors it accuses of peddling knock-offs on its platforms.

It also comes shortly after Alibaba chairman Jack Ma said that inadequate laws and enforcement and low conviction rates were the main reason why there has been little progress tackling counterfeit networks in China.

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